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Page last updated at 16:30 GMT, Wednesday, 9 July 2008 17:30 UK

Ambush kills Darfur peacekeepers

Peacekeeper in Darfur
Only 9,000 troops of a planned 26,000-strong force have been deployed

Seven members of the joint UN-African Union peace mission in Sudan's Darfur region have been killed and 22 hurt in an attack, the UN says.

UN officials said it was one of the deadliest attacks on its forces in recent years.

Sudanese state media reports that 40 armoured vehicles ambushed the peace force while on patrol in North Darfur.

The UN-AU mission has been struggling to contain the violence in the region, with just 9,000 troops.

Heavy weapons, including mortars and rocket-propelled grenades, were used in this attack, UN officials said.

It is not known who carried out the attack.

Those who died included four Rwandan peacekeepers, one policeman from Ghana and another from Uganda.

'Outraged'

Ten vehicles from the UN-AU Mission in Darfur (Unamid) were destroyed, Sudan's state media reports.

"The mission is obviously outraged by the attack," Unamid spokeswoman Shereen Zorba told Reuters news agency.

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It is unclear who was responsible. Numerous armed groups operate in Darfur - rebel factions, pro-government militias and criminals.

Last week, Burkina Faso's Foreign Minister Djibril Bassole was appointed as the new UN and AU Darfur peace envoy.

Two outgoing peace envoys have questioned whether armed groups in the region are committed to ending the conflict.

Talks have been complicated recently because the rebels have split into more than a dozen factions.

Since the conflict began in Darfur five years ago, the UN estimates that some 300,000 people have died and two million have fled their homes.

The conflict began when rebels took up arms in protest at alleged government discrimination against the region.

Pro-government Arab militias have been accused of widespread atrocities against the black African population.



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