UnamidTanzania “shocked”

Associated Press reports from Dar es Salaam that the killing of seven Tanzanian peacekeepers in Sudan’s western region of Darfur is “shocking to Tanzania, ” the country’s deputy foreign minister said Sunday, as news of the attack spread across the East African country that has recently become more active in regional peacekeeping efforts.

Tanzanian officials do not yet have full details of Saturday’s the ambush, in which 17 others were also wounded in the deadliest single attack on international peacekeepers in Sudan, said Mahadhi Juma Maalim on Sunday.

“Tanzania is saddened by this attack that led to (the) killings of our soldiers who went there to keep peace,” Maalim aid. “It’s shocking to Tanzania and members of the family of soldiers killed in Darfur.”

The Tanzanian government is studying the situation in Darfur and will notify families of the slain soldiers, said Maalim.

The assault by a large group of gunmen included sustained heavy fire from machine guns and possibly rocket-propelled grenades, targeting the force some 25 kilometers (15 miles) west of the town of Khor Abeche, United Nations forces spokesman Chris Cycmanick said on Saturday.

Who attacked the peacekeepers?

No-one has claimed responsibility for the attack, but sources in Sudan suggest that the most likely group to carry out the attack were former Arab fighters, known as the Janjaweed.

They have been incorporated into a unit known as the Central Reserve Police.

In recent weeks these police have clashed with Sudanese government forces, sometimes over land, at other times over arms and supplies.

The United Nations is reluctant to speculate on who might have carried out the killing, since they were unable to identify with sufficient certainty the forces involved in the ambush.

The difficult role of the peacekeepers

The peacekeeping force was established to protect civilians in Darfur, but also contributes to security for those providing humanitarian aid, verifying agreements, political reconciliation efforts and promoting human rights.

It has about 16,500 troops and military observers and over 5,000 international police, and is a joint UN – African Union mission.

About 40 countries have contributed military personnel or police to the Darfur peacekeeping mission.

[This link will provide background on the Janjaweed and other groups.]