Darfur gunmen seize 31 displaced people

AFP , Monday 25 Mar 2013

Gunmen in Sudan's Darfur seized 31 displaced people travelling to a conference

"A convoy of three commercial buses carrying 31 internally displaced persons and escorted by UNAMID peacekeepers was stopped by a large unidentified armed group in military uniforms and seven jeep-mounted guns," said Aicha Elbasri, spokeswoman for the African Union-United Nations Mission in Darfur (UNAMID), highlighting the insecurity of 1.4 million people uprooted by the region's decade-old conflict.

"Despite UNAMID opposition, the armed group forced the IDPs to an unknown location," said Elbasri, condemning the action of the gunmen.

The peacekeepers were unharmed in the incident, which happened at about 6:20 pm (1520 GMT) on Sunday at a border crossing between Central and South Darfur states. Elbasri added that while some information says the captives were released, official government sources have not confirmed this.

"Some of them are safe," Abdulbagi Ahmed Suliman, media director of Darfur's Voluntary Return and Resettlement Commission, told AFP from the main South Darfur city of Nyala. But he said the status of the other displaced people who were captured remained unclear.

They were on their way from Zalingei, the capital of Central Darfur, to Nyala where a government-run conference on Darfur's IDPs and refugees began on Monday. "UNAMID was escorting the IDPs as part of its support to this important event", Elbasri said.

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