12 soldiers killed in raid on peacekeeping base in Darfur

Sunday, September 30, 2007

A force of 1,000 rebels believed to be from the Sudan Liberation Army attacked one of the African Union's peacekeeping bases in the Darfur region of Sudan, said AU officials Sunday. They added that more than 50 AU pacificators and military personnel are MIA since the attack on the base, although the figure could not be confirmed as the fighting had not stopped.

In what was called "...the heaviest loss of life and biggest attack on the African Mission," by AU spokesperson Noureddine Mezni, 30 vehicles raided the AU base in the town of Haskanita just after the sunset meal which ended the daytime fasting of Ramadan. The base was completely destroyed.

Insurgents in Darfur have become increasingly disillusioned with the AU peacekeepers, and are convinced that they too often side with the Sudanese government. Several attacks on AU forces have been blamed on these insurgents.

The SLA did not comment on the latest raid of the AU base. However, a leader in the allied Justice and Equality Movement said that they were engaged in combat against government-aligned Janjaweed forces days before. Some sources have said that was orchestrated by JEM rebels in an attempt to gain supplies, recognition, and input in the peace talks scheduled for October 27 in Libya.

The Sudanese government did not comment on the attacks, although AU officials said that they witnessed multiple Sudanese helicopters and fighter jets leaving for Haskanita from the Sudanese base in southern Darfur.

The attack marks the first time an AU base has been overwhelmed since deployment in June, 2004. The peacekeeping force has failed to slow the fighting in the region, and do not have the ability to defend themselves from attack. They will soon be merged with the 26,000 strong United Nations force, whose first units will arrive in October.