Rebels kill 10 peacekeepers in Darfur

( AP ) - Rebel forces stormed a small African Union base in northern Darfur and killed at least 10 peacekeepers, leaving behind charred armored vehicles and bombed out barracks in an unprecedented attack on the beleaguered mission that threatened upcoming peace talks.

More than 30 peacekeepers were still missing by late Sunday, indicating the death toll from the attack could rise significantly.

About 1,000 rebels from the Sudan Liberation Army attacked the base outside the town of Haskanita Saturday after sunset when Muslims break their daytime fast for the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, AU officers told The Associated Press Sunday at the scene of the attack. The rebels eventually stormed the base early Sunday, they said.

"We battled for hours, but when we ran out of ammunition, we took refuge in this ditch," said a Nigerian peacekeeper who would only give his first name, Aboubakar, because he was not authorized to speak to the media. He showed a corner of the camp riddled with bullet marks and mortar holes where the AU troops mounted their resistance.

Some of the surviving peacekeepers appeared shellshocked and said it was difficult to describe the intensity of the onslaught.

The rebels used armored vehicles and rocket-propelled grenades, an indication that they are more heavily armed than previously believed, peacekeepers said.

The AU troops said they initially repelled the assailants. But the rebels eventually overran the camp at around 4 a.m., peacekeepers said as they recovered from the fighting.

The Sudanese army routed the rebels early Sunday and the remaining AU peacekeepers were evacuated under the protection of the army. By afternoon, some government troops could be seen plundering goods from the burned-out camp as an AU armored vehicle smoldered nearby.

Rebels looted several AU armored vehicles and jeeps and took a large amount of ammunition from the base before the Sudanese army drove them out, AU soldiers said.

"This is the heaviest loss of life and the biggest attack on the African Union mission," said AU spokesman Noureddine Mezni. "Our troops fought a defensive battle to protect the camp, but 30 vehicles eventually stormed it. ... The camp is completely destroyed."

At least 200,000 people have been killed in more than four years of conflict in Darfur, a region of western Sudan. The government is accused of unleashing Arab militias known as the janjaweed to fight ethnic African rebels. The janjaweed are accused of the worst atrocities of the conflict including rape and mass killings of innocent civilians.

Darfur rebels also have grown increasingly hostile to the AU peacekeepers, saying the force is not neutral and favors the government side. Several ambushes of AU forces in the past year have been blamed on the rebels.

But Saturday's raid was the first time since the AU mission was deployed in June 2004 that one of its bases has been overrun, though soldiers have been regularly attacked. There are about 6,000 AU peacekeepers in the region currently.

The announcement that new peace talks to solve the conflict will open on Oct. 27 in Libya has sparked a flurry of fighting between rebels and Sudanese government forces as each try to improve their position ahead of the conference.

The attack came as rebels appeared to flee the area around Haskanita because of a large government offensive there over the past two weeks, AU soldiers said.

AU officers said they had observed several Sudanese helicopter gunships and MiG-19 fighter jets taking off for the Haskanita area early Sunday from their base in southern Darfur. U.N. resolutions forbid all military flights over Darfur.

By midday Sunday, plumes of smokes from several burning villages in the same area could be seen rising into the air. Forces from the Arab-dominated government have been accused of indiscriminately targeting ethnic African Darfur villagers on suspicions they support the rebels.

About 150 peacekeepers, most from Nigeria, had been stationed at the Haskanita base, but they had been grounded since June because of the insecurity in the area.

"This is a terrible incident. We're still trying to understand what happened," said Gen. Martin Agwai, the AU force commander, as he inspected the destroyed base.

As the last AU peacekeepers evacuated the camp late Sunday, Sudanese government troops and militias could be seen patrolling the area. Other government troops were sifting through the camp's debris amid the burning tents and a smoldering AU armored vehicle. Some soldiers carried away mattresses, fans and other gear.

"It may not be the right political thing to say, but the government forces saved us," said an AU officer at Haskanita, who also asked not to be named because of military regulations.

Speaking in Ethiopia, the AU's top peace and security official, Said Djinnit, said 10 peacekeepers were killed in the attack. AU officers said the dead included a police officer from Senegal, two military observers from Botswana and Mali and seven soldiers from Nigeria. At least seven peacekeepers were wounded.

"Some fled on foot and by car and have called us," the AU officer said. "But we're very worried for some of them."

Senegal's foreign ministry confirmed the death of one of its peacekeepers and reiterated a warning that it might pull out its troops if the situation appears too insecure.

The U.N., AU, France and Britain all strongly condemned the attack Sunday.

The Sudanese army also deplored the attack, saying it offered protection to the evacuating peacekeepers. Despite a few sporadic gunshots, the army appeared in control of the area Sunday.

The Darfur situation had been expected to improve after U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon visited Sudan early in September and announced new negotiations with Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir to settle the conflict.

Al-Bashir announced a cease-fire earlier this month, but violence increased in the ensuing weeks.

The underfunded AU force has been unable to stem the fighting in Darfur and will soon be merged into a much more powerful AU-U.N. joint force.

Rebel commanders told AP a few days earlier that they had been involved in heavy battles against government-allied forces in the Haskanita area for the past two weeks.

"The government has massed five or six janjaweed units who are converging on us," said Abdelaziz Ushar, a commander in the rebel Justice and Equality Movement, which fights alongside the SLA.

JEM rebels said they had evacuated Haskanita a couple of days ago, and AU peacekeepers in the camp said they suspected a splinter faction known as SLA-Unity had conducted the raid.

JEM strongly condemned the attack.

"JEM is not certain about the exact culprits in this senseless attack," the group said. There was no comment from SLA-Unity.

Iran, Russia to cooperate on COVID-19 vaccine development
Iran, Russia to cooperate on COVID-19 vaccine development
Number of people infected with coronavirus pandemic in Iran exceeds 900,000
Number of people infected with coronavirus pandemic in Iran exceeds 900,000
Iran to buy 42 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine
Iran to buy 42 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine
Loading Bars
Kazakhstan increases export to Greece despite COVID-19
World Bank to help Ukraine purchase COVID-19 vaccines
Sweden to reach COVID-19 peak in two weeks: forecast
Imports of fuels and lubricants up to Georgia
Trump says will leave White House if Electoral College votes for Biden
Moscow documents 77 deaths from COVID-19 in past 24 hours
WHO urges African states to strengthen readiness for COVID-19 vaccine
UK records another 17,555 coronavirus cases with 498 cases
China calls for healthy, stable military ties with U.S.
Italy reports 29,003 new coronavirus cases, 822 deaths - health ministry
Russia's Sputnik V developers call on AstraZeneca to try combining vaccines
Paris does not recognize so-called "Nagorno-Karabakh Republic" - Foreign Ministry
Recovery of oil prices has positive impact on Kazakhstan’s external balances - IHS Markit
Group of German medical experts arrives in Kyrgyzstan to fight COVID-19
Georgian NCDC Head urges people over 70 to stay at home except in necessary circumstances
Iran, Russia to cooperate on COVID-19 vaccine development
Bitcoin price down 12.7%
Armenian eco-terror in Karabakh constitute serious threat to peace and security in region - opinion
Hungary, Poland double down to try to eject rule-of-law condition from EU budget
Over 3,500 coronavirus-related deaths recorded in Moscow in October
Belavia resumes regular flights from Baku to Minsk in early December
Iran hopes Kish-Istanbul-Abadan flights to improve its trade
Kazakhstan Railways opens tender to buy welding equipment
Georgia to support businesses amid new coronavirus restrictions
WB extends deadline for implementation of agricultural project in Azerbaijan
Turkey steps up inspections as coronavirus pandemic figures climb
Cavushoglu and Stoltenberg discuss situation in Karabakh
Swedish royals test positive for COVID-19
England reveals new regional COVID tiers in fight against coronavirus
Azerbaijani gymnasts reach finals of 36th European Championship in Ukraine
Georgia continues to support its citizens amid COVID-19 pandemic
News on return of Azerbaijani soldier captured by Armenians false, relative says
Azerbaijan sends note of protest to France
Ample opportunities for investments to be created in Karabakh – minister
Azerbaijani's negotiations with UAE on renewables nearing completion
Kazakhstan, Mongolia eye signing roadmap for trade, economic co-op
Russia bans import of tomatoes from Uzbekistan’s Fergana region
36th COMCEC session opens under chairmanship of Turkish president (PHOTO)
Uzbek Ministry of Finance publishes draft law on increasing taxes on gasoline, diesel
Russian Gazprombank predicts Azerbaijan's economic recovery in 2021
iPhone 12 Pro Max and iPhone 12 Mini now at Azercell Exclusive shops!
Iran becomes self-sufficient in building oil, gas platforms
Cotton growing in Azerbaijan hits record - agriculture ministry
Italian municipalities adopt documents expressing solidarity with Azerbaijani people
Uzbekistan to grow industrial cannabis in Sardoba district
Azerbaijan detects 3,705 new COVID-19 cases, 1,609 recoveries
Turkmen Ministry of Construction opens tender for equestrian sports complex construction
Azerbaijani, Saudi FMs exchange views on current situation in Karabakh
Uzbekistan reveals data on its ICT sphere enterprises and organizations
Azerbaijan to export persimmons to Slovakia and Czech Republic
Level of religious tolerance in Azerbaijan is much higher than in France - ISESCO ex-director
Kazakhstan's exports to Switzerland decrease year-on-year
Azerbaijani medical insurance agency signs contract with tender-winning IT company
Resolution adopted by French Senate must be canceled – Azerbaijani NGO head
Volume of Turkish textile clothing supplies to Kazakh market surges
Latvian AirBaltic cancels Riga-Tbilisi-Riga flights
Reconnaissance work completed within Baiterek space complex creation in Kazakhstan
Thermal power plant modernization, other projects underway in Kazakhstan's Karaganda
Georgia imposes further restrictions to curb spread of coronavirus
Georgian carrier to launch regular cargo flights from China to Europe
Russia's Rostelecom expects to develop transit routes through Turkmenistan
Average monthly salary in Azerbaijan's Nakhchivan rises
Azerbaijani, Afghan FMs discuss latest situation in region
WB, AIIB to fund rural infrastructure development in Uzbekistan
Azerbaijani, Indonesian FMs stress importance of trilateral ceasefire statement
Austria fully supports Uzbekistan obtaining of EU’s GSP beneficiary status
Turkmenistan's Dashoguz region opens tender for installation work
France not part of Karabakh settlement, but part of problem - Turkish defense minister
Japanese companies to provide technical support for terry production in Uzbekistan
Germany's hotspot district to launch COVID-19 mass tests for children
Yield of citrus fruits in Azerbaijan up
Capital of Kazakh companies operating in Turkey revealed
Iran boosts its pistachio exports
World Economic Forum announces Azerbaijan's road quality score
Share of assets in Azerbaijani banking sector declines
Kazakhstan eyeing amending legislation to support renewable energy dev't
Georgian Hualing Free Industrial Zone plans to finalize deal with 4 new companies
Mortgage lending in Azerbaijan through state line grows manifold
Kazakhstan to launch hundreds of industrial projects before year-end
Azerbaijani ICT company wins tender on purchase of licenses
Central Bank of Azerbaijan discloses data from foreign exchange auction
Employment in Iran's West Azerbaijan Province increases
Buta Airways to Increase the Frequency of Flights Performed to Izmir
Azerbaijan, Hungary discuss possibilities of attracting investors to liberated territories
Georgian Huliang FIZ offering available land plots to potential investors
Azerbaijani NBCO talks about its activities amid coronavirus
Azerbaijan’s carpet producer signs tender contract
Many members of French Senate unaware war in Karabakh ended (VIDEO)
Number of people infected with coronavirus pandemic in Iran exceeds 900,000
Baku Stock Exchange admits local investment company
Uzbekistan eyes to set up local production of various vaccines
France does not deserve Azerbaijan’s confidence – senator
Bahar Azadi gold coin price still falling in Iran
Bank mortgages in Azerbaijan rise
Full text of Azerbaijani parliament’s statement against French Senate’s resolution
Iran's economy remains strong and steady – Iran's president
Turkmenistan to be vital strategic partner, gas supplier to China long-term - Wood Mackenzie
EDB talks Kazakhstan's economy growth forecast, return to pre-COVID levels
Ambassadors of Turkey, Iran to Azerbaijan hold discusses on Karabakh
“I am quite sure that giving a hand to customers in this challenging time will pay off in the future”: interview with Dariusz Kacprzyk, Member of Supervisory Board of AccessBank Azerbaijan
All news