Darfur gunmen seize 31 displaced people under UNAMID escort


Fighters of Sudan's Justice and Equality (JEM) Movement wait to greet Sudanese presidential adviser Nafie Ali Nafie during his visit to al-Fasher, Northern Darfur, on July 25, 2011.


Ashraf Shazly

Gunmen in Sudan's Darfur region seized 31 displaced people traveling under United Nations Mission in Darfur (UNAMID) escort to a refugee conference.

"A convoy of three commercial buses carrying 31 internally displaced persons (IDPs) and escorted by UNAMID peacekeepers was stopped by a large unidentified armed group in military uniforms and seven jeep-mounted guns," UNAMID spokeswoman Aicha Elbasri said. "Despite UNAMID opposition, the armed group forced the IDPs to an unknown location."

The UNAMID peacekeepers were unharmed during the incident, which happened at around 6:20 p.m. local time on Sunday at a border crossing between Central and South Darfur states. Elbasri said that official government sources have not yet confirmed whether or not the captives have been released.

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"Some of them are safe," Abdulbagi Ahmed Suliman, media director of Darfur's Voluntary Return and Resettlement Commission, told Agence France-Presse from the main South Darfur city of Nyala.

Yousif Tibin, Central Darfur State governor, accused the UNAMID peacekeepers of neglecting security authorities' advice that warned against traveling by land and stressed the importance of traveling by air. He said that UNAMID insisted on traveling with the group by land.