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Page last updated at 18:02 GMT, Thursday, 10 July 2008 19:02 UK

Sudan condemns UN Darfur attack

Peacekeeper in Darfur
Only 10,000 members of a planned 26,000-strong force are in place

Sudan has blamed rebel groups for an attack on the United Nations-African Union peace mission in Darfur, in which seven peacekeepers were killed.

Sudan's foreign ministry condemned the attack, and urged Western governments to deal more firmly with Darfur rebels.

UN officials have said they suspect the government-backed Janjaweed militia were responsible for the assault, which also left 22 troops wounded.

The two main rebel groups have denied any involvement.

In a statement, Sudan's foreign ministry said the aim of rebels had been to "destabilise the region and prove it is not safe", state media reported.

It said government troops, who arrived at the scene later, believed that the attack was carried out by the SLM-Unity rebel faction.

The UN says its peacekeepers fought for over two hours to repulse the rebel fighters, who were armed with mortars and rocket-propelled grenades.

Correspondents say the UN-AU mission, which began work this year, lacks the military hardware, including attack helicopters, needed to operate effectively in a region roughly the size of France.

'Extreme violence'

Khartoum, which wants predominantly African peacekeepers, has been accused of slowing down the deployment of the force by repeatedly raising objections.

UN spokeswoman condemns the killings

Only 10,000 of a planned 26,000-strong peacekeeping force have been deployed.

About 40 armoured vehicles ambushed the peace force while it was on patrol in North Darfur on Wednesday.

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

A spokeswoman for UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said he "condemns in the strongest possible terms this unacceptable act of extreme violence".

The BBC's Laura Trevelyan at the UN in New York says diplomats are wondering whether the timing of the attack could be linked to the fact that top Sudanese officials could be indicted for war crimes at the International Criminal Court next week.

The Janjaweed has long been hostile to UN troops in Sudan, fearing they could be used to arrest anyone indicted by the court at the Hague, our correspondent says.

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.


FROM OTHER NEWS SITES
Washington Post 7 Troops Killed in Sudan Ambush - 12 hrs ago
Al Jazeera Peacekeepers killed in Darfur - 14 hrs ago
Star-Telegram7 peacekeepers killed in ambush in Darfur - 14 hrs ago
Chicago Tribune 7 peacekeepers killed in ambush in Darfur - 14 hrs ago
Boston Globe Darfur militia ambush kills seven peacekeepers - 15 hrs ago
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