KHARTOUM, Sudan (AP) – A peacekeeper for the joint U.N.-African Union force in Sudan’s Darfur region has been killed for the first time since the troops deployed five months ago, the U.N. mission said Thursday.
A Ugandan policeman identified as John Kennedy Okecha was found dead in a vehicle for the UNAMID force in North Darfur Wednesday, UNAMID said in a statement. He had been shot three times in the neck, chest and stomach.
UNAMID described the killing as «an act of cold blooded murder» and appealed to all those with any knowledge of what happened to share it with the appropriate authorities so the perpetrators can be brought to justice.
A Ugandan policeman serving with the joint UN-African Union peacekeeping force in Sudan’s western Darfur region has been found dead riddled with bullets, a spokesman for the force said Thursday.
“Yesterday (Wednesday) evening, unfortunately we found one of our police officers dead in his vehicle. We are investigating the circumstances of his death,” said Noureddine Mezni, spokesman for the UN-AU Mission in Darfur (UNAMID).
“He was killed on duty. He was found with bullet wounds all over the body.”
Mezni said the policeman’s body was found near the Zamzam market in El Fasher, capital of North Darfur state and the region’s largest town.
He was the first UNAMID peacekeeper to be killed since the joint force took over from an overstretched AU mission at the beginning of the year.
“We had three natural deaths before,” said Mezni.
The UN Security Council authorised the new force in July last year but nearly a year on it still has only a fraction of its planned full complement.
Of a projected staffing of 26,000 — 19,500 soldiers and 6,500 policemen — the force so far has just 9,200 peacekeepers backed up by 1,300 civilian administrators.
The preceding African Union Mission in Sudan lost some 60 of its personnel from its deployment in 2004 until it replacement by UNAMID earlier this year.
The United Nations says that more than 2.2 million people are believed to have fled their homes in Darfur since ethnic minority rebels rose up in early 2003, meeting a scorched earth response from the Khartoum government and allied militias.
In April, UN humanitarian chief John Holmes said up to 300,000 people may have died from the combined effects of war, famine and disease.
Sudan puts the number of deaths from fighting at 10,000.