Khartoum - A helicopter and its crew contracted by
peacekeepers in Sudan's Darfur have been "detained" by rebels in the
troubled region for 10 days, the mission said on Tuesday.
The Mi-8 chopper was contracted by a Russian company and did
not carry UN markings, Christopher Cycmanick, acting spokesperson for the
African Union-UN Mission in Darfur (Unamid), told AFP.
One of the crew members is Sudanese while the other two are
foreign, he said, without giving their nationality.
The helicopter was delivering supplies to Unamid locations
in South Darfur state when a mechanical failure forced it to make an emergency
landing on 3 August, southeast of Nyala city, Cycmanick said.
"The crew members, a total of three, were detained by
members of SLA-Minni Minnawi," he said, referring to one of Darfur's main
"Since that time, communication has been maintained
with all parties and negotiations have been underway for gaining the safe
release of the crew as well as the recovery of the helicopter," Cycmanick
Hussein Minnawi, a member of the Minnawi group's political
bureau, told AFP that an investigation was underway to determine if the chopper
was owned by a private firm or the government.
"I think if it is a private [helicopter] then it will
be released," he said. "We are in conflict with the government, not
The aircraft landed west of Ed Daein town, where a Unamid
police patrol was ambushed on Monday in a region where the Arab Rezeigat and
Maaliya tribes have been fighting.
Protection of civilians
"The situation in the area is still tense,"
Cycmanick said, adding there were no injuries among peacekeepers, contradicting
an earlier UN report.
Inter-ethnic fighting has been the major source of violence
in Darfur this year, where an estimated 300 000 people were displaced in the
first five months alone, Unamid says.
These battles reflect the altered dynamics of a decade-old
conflict in which, observers say, the government can no longer control its
former Arab tribal allies known as Janjaweed.
With the situation changing, the United Nations Security
Council called last month for a review of the Unamid mission, which has
encountered criticism that it has not used its full powers to counter the
upsurge of violence.
Unamid was set up in 2007 under Chapter VII of the UN
Charter, which allows for the use of armed force and mandated to protect
civilians and provide security for aid workers.
"While the protection of civilians is at the heart of Unamid
the mission does not become a party to the conflict," whether tribal or
between the government and rebels, Cycmanick said.
"We do not take sides and we are impartial," he
said, adding the government has primary responsibility for protecting the
Non-Arabs in Darfur began a rebellion 10 years ago against
what they saw as the domination of Sudan's power and wealth by Arab elites.
In response, the government-backed Janjaweed militia shocked
the world with atrocities against them.
Tribal disputes have been driven by conflict over resources
including land, water and mineral rights, observers say.
Prior to this year's surge of violence, there were already
1.4 million people in camps for those uprooted by Darfur's conflict.
President Omar al-Bashir is wanted by The Hague-based
International Criminal Court for war crimes, crimes against humanity and
genocide allegedly committed in Darfur.