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7 Peacekeepers Killed In Darfur Ambush

MELISSA BLOCK, Host:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Melissa Block.

MICHELE NORRIS, Host:

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And I'm Michele Norris. There are reports of a violent attack in Sudan's Darfur region. The United Nations says seven U.N. peacekeepers were killed yesterday in an ambush. About 200 gunmen, some on horseback, others in SUVs, attacked the peacekeeping unit. The ensuing gun battle lasted more than two hours. NPR's Gwen Thompkins is in Nairobi and she joins us now. Gwen, do we know any more details about this?

GWEN THOMPKINS: On their way back they were attacked by the force that you're talking about. From what we understand, this force was more than three times the number of peacekeepers who were in the convoy yesterday afternoon on that road.

NORRIS: Any idea who the attackers were? Does the fact that they were on horseback provide any clues as to who they might be?

THOMPKINS: Today, the situation is completely different. So many of the participants in the fighting over the past five years have split, the factions have factioned off. There used to be four or five major rebel groups who were at war in North Darfur. Now there are - some say there's an infinite number simply because they have split among themselves, and they are seeking, in each smaller group, they're seeking to re-arm itself, and they target the UNAMID force, as well as humanitarian organizations to get that equipment.

NORRIS: So it sounds like they've turned to banditry to actually, to try to finance themselves. Gwen, let me ask you this: The joint force that came under attack, this is a peacekeeping unit. Would they have been equipped to handle this kind of attack?

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THOMPKINS: But it's fair to believe that they were not only outmanned but they were outgunned, and UNAMID is also reporting that the 200 gunmen were heavily armed.

NORRIS: When might UNAMID expect some sort of reinforcement?

THOMPKINS: Michele, they have been waiting. They have been waiting. The UNAMID force is authorized to be as large as 26,000 peacekeepers, and right now only 8,000, and that's generous. Only 8,000 are on the ground. They are awaiting the arrival of four battalions. So what the UNAMID officer told me today, when I spoke with him, was that he is hoping that at the very least, yesterday's incident underscores to the international community the need for more countries to offer their peacekeeping forces to the UNAMID force and to try to get to Darfur as quickly as possible.

NORRIS: I've been speaking to NPR's Gwen Thompkins. She's in Nairobi. Gwen, thank you very much.

THOMPKINS: Thank you so much, Michele. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.