UNAMID worries about "warning statement" of Darfur rebel group

09:21, February 22, 2011      

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The United Nations-African Union Mission in Darfur (UNAMID) expressed on Monday its "grave concern" about a recent "warning statement" made by Minny Minawi, leader of the rebel Sudan Liberation Army/Minnawi faction that airports in Sudan in general, and Darfur in particular, had been designated by his movement as military targets and susceptible to attacks.

In a statement, the peacekeeping UNAMID mission said that it " should like to reiterate that it is, and will remain, impartial in the Darfur conflict. It also reminds all parties of its mandate of protection of civilians and ensuring unfettered access for humanitarian assistance."

"The Mission should like to emphasize that, owing to the region 's geographic conditions and lack of infrastructure, most humanitarian relief such as food, water, shelter and medical supplies is transported by air. Moreover, aid workers and UNAMID peacekeepers rely heavily on air transport to reach, protect and supply those living in remote locations," the statement added.

The UNAMID called on all belligerents to ensure that the safety of its personnel and materiel.

The statement also said that "any threats or hostile acts against personnel or facilities engaging in transport for UNAMID, UN agencies and humanitarian organizations, could have a devastating impact on their operations and will compound the suffering of civilians, who are the most vulnerable victims of the conflict".

"Finally, any attack against UNAMID peacekeepers, given their role in Darfur, would be a war crime under international law," it added.

The rebel Sudan Liberation Movement (SLM) led by Minni Minnawi announced on Sunday that airports in Darfur and other parts of Sudan had become "strategic military targets" for his forces, and that the UNAMID and other international organizations should immediately evacuate from these airports.

"The SLM warns the UNAMID forces and other international organizations deployed in Darfur and other parts of Sudan to evacuate from the airports in Darfur or elsewhere immediately because these sites are strategic military target for the forces of the SLM," said a statement signed by the rebel leader.

Head of the joint peacekeeping mission Ibrahim Gambari has said he was alarmed by the recent increase of fighting in the restive North Darfur between the government army and the rebels groups.

Source: Xinhua

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