Monday, February 09, 2009

UNAMID helicopter shot at by unidentified gunmen near its HQ in El-Fasher, Darfur

Darfur gunmen hit peacekeeping helicopter
February 9, 2009 Reuters report by Andrew Heavens in Khartoum - excerpt:
Unidentified gunmen opened fire on a peacekeeping helicopter on Monday as it flew over Sudan's Darfur region, smashing its windscreen, officials said. [...]

The joint U.N./African Union UNAMID peacekeeping mission said its Mi-8 helicopter was hit as it ferried food supplies 70 km (43 miles) southwest of El Fasher, the force's headquarters.

"We are lucky no one was injured," said UNAMID spokesman Noureddine Mezni. "This is a very serious incident -- unacceptable. We are here to keep peace. We are not part of the conflict."

UNAMID helicopters came under fire several times last year. The force has said it fears rebel groups are targeting their aircraft, mistaking them for government helicopters which, despite regular protests, often use the same white livery.

Sudan government officials are due to meet members of Darfur's rebel Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) in Qatar late on Monday for their first official talks since 2007. JEM officials said the discussions would begin in earnest on Tuesday.

Both sides said they were planning to discuss possible confidence building measures, including a ceasefire, which could pave the way to full peace negotiations.

Sudan's government last year said it wanted to invite all Darfur rebel groups to peace talks in Doha, as part of a new peace push. [...] (editing by Mark Trevelyan)

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