Indictment of Sudanese Leader Seen as Threat to Peacekeepers
By Colum Lynch
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, July 20, 2008; Page A01
UNITED NATIONS -- Six days before Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir was charged with genocide, a group of 200 fighters on horseback, supported by more than 40 vehicles mounted with machine guns, carried out the bloodiest and most sophisticated ambush yet on a fledgling U.N. and African peacekeeping mission.
The July 8 attack -- which killed seven peacekeepers and wounded 22 -- bore similarities to Sudanese-backed raids by Janjaweed horsemen that have led to the deaths of more than 300,000 civilians and forced nearly 3 million people from their homes in Darfur over the past five years, according to internal U.N. accounts.
Some U.N. officials suspect the operation was intended to serve as a warning to U.N. peacekeepers and humanitarian workers of Sudan's intent to use deadly force if the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court targeted the country's leader. On Wednesday, those fears were heightened after a Nigerian company commander was killed by unidentified assailants in the town of Forobaranga in West Darfur.
"We are very worried there could be a gradual increase in violence, which could make the mission quite vulnerable," Jean-Marie Guéhenno, the U.N. undersecretary general for peacekeeping, said in an interview. But it "will be very hard to pin down responsibility" for the attacks, he predicted.
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