Govt-linked militia behind Darfur peacekeepers’ killing, say rebels

Updated 15 July 2013

Govt-linked militia behind Darfur peacekeepers’ killing, say rebels

KHARTOUM: Rebels in Sudan’s Darfur region accused government-linked militia on Sunday of carrying out an ambush which killed seven peacekeepers and wounded 17.
“We don’t have any doubt that the act was done by government militia, because militia are deployed in Khor Abeche area,” said Abdullah Moursal, spokesman for the Sudan Liberation Army’s Minni Minnawi faction.
“This area is completely under government control.”
Gibril Adam Bilal, spokesman for another rebel group, the Justice and Equality Movement, also blamed militia. “The government must take full responsibility for this incident,” which was carried out by government-equipped militia, he claimed.
Officials could not immediately be reached for comment.
The African Union-United Nations Mission in Darfur (UNAMID) said the ambush by “a large unidentified group” struck on Saturday about 25 kilometers (16 miles) west of a UNAMID base at Khor Abeche, north of the South Darfur state capital Nyala.
In addition to the seven dead Tanzanian peacekeeping troops, 17 other military and police personnel were wounded in the attack, the worst in the five-year history of UNAMID.
Rebels have been fighting the government for a decade in Darfur but UNAMID says that clashes between rival tribal and ethnic groups have been responsible for most of the worsening unrest in Darfur this year.
UN experts, human rights activists and tribal leaders have accused government security forces of involvement in this year’s tribal fighting.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon expressed outrage at the “heinous attack” and called on Khartoum to take swift action to bring the perpetrators to justice.
The UN has made repeated similar calls after attacks on its peacekeepers in Sudan, but UN sources say they are unaware of anyone having been held accountable.
About 50 UNAMID members have now died in hostile action since the mission began. Before Saturday’s attack, six peacekeepers had been killed in Darfur since October.
Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, head of the African Union Commission, said the attack was unprovoked.
“There cannot be any reason why people from outside Sudan voluntarily contributing toward the restoration of peace in Darfur should lose their lives in the manner that has been occasioned by this senseless attack,” she said, adding that “UNAMID will not be deterred” in its mission. Canada’s Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird called the latest attack “reprehensible” and said Ottawa “is deeply concerned by the deteriorating security conditions in Darfur and across Sudan.”




An estimated 300,000 people have been displaced by violence in Darfur this year — more than in the last two years combined.
In April, a Nigerian peacekeeper was killed and two others wounded in an assault on their base east of Nyala.
The authorities denied suggestions from local sources that the attack appeared to have been planned and carried out by government-linked forces.
A UN panel of experts earlier this year reported that former pro-government militiamen had sometimes expressed their discontent with the current government through “direct attacks on UNAMID staff and premises.”
The JEM and the Sudan Liberation Army both refused to sign an internationally-backed peace deal signed two years ago between Khartoum and an alliance of rebel splinter factions.
A humanitarian source expressed doubt that rebels would have carried out the attack on UNAMID.
“When people are killed, probably it’s more militia,” he said, asking for anonymity.
UNAMID released few details of the ambush but said the patrol came under “heavy fire,” leading to an extended firefight until peacekeeping reinforcements arrived to rescue the team.
Last October, unidentified attackers fired mortars, machine guns, rocket-propelled grenades and anti-tank guns in an ambush which killed a South African peacekeeper and wounded three others in North Darfur.
UNAMID said at the time that that attack may have been a deliberate attempt to prevent the mission from assessing the situation in an area where violence had been reported.
UNAMID, with about 20,000 military and police peacekeepers, is one of the largest such missions in the world, and has a mandate to protect civilians.
str-it/kir


Cambodia to ban elephant rides at Angkor temples

Updated 15 November 2019

Cambodia to ban elephant rides at Angkor temples

  • The Angkor archaeological complex in northern Siem Reap attracts the bulk of the kingdom’s tourists
  • Apsara authority plans to end the elephant rides by 2020
PHNOM PENH: Cambodia will ban all elephant rides at the country’s famed Angkor temple park by early next year, an official said Friday, a rare win for conservationists who have long decried the popular practice as cruel.
The Angkor archaeological complex in northern Siem Reap attracts the bulk of the kingdom’s foreign tourists — which topped six million in 2018 — and many opt for elephants rides around the ancient temples.
But these rides “will end by the start of 2020,” said Long Kosal, a spokesman with the Apsara Authority, which manages the park.
“Using elephants for business is not appropriate anymore,” he told AFP, adding that some of the animals were “already old.”
So far, five of the 14 working elephants have been transferred to a community forest about 40 kilometers (25 miles) away from the temples.
“They will live out their natural lives there,” Kosal said.
The company that owns the elephants will continue to look after them, he added.
Cambodia has long come under fire from animal rights groups for ubiquitous elephant rides on offer for tourists, also seen in neighboring Thailand, Vietnam and Laos.
The elephants are broken in during training and rights groups have accused handlers of overworking them.
In 2016, a female elephant died by the roadside after carrying tourists around the Angkor Wat temple complex in severely hot weather.
The animal had been working for around 45 minutes before she collapsed.