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Senegal Demands Probe into Attack on AU Troops in Darfur


The government of Senegal is warning it will consider pulling its troops out of the African Union peacekeeping force in Darfur if steps are not taken to guarantee the safety of their contingent. At least 10 African Union peacekeepers from Nigeria, Mali and Senegal were killed in a rebel attack on an AU base late Saturday. Kari Barber has more from VOA's West Africa bureau in Dakar.

Senegal government officials have issued a statement demanding a probe into Saturday's attack and urging a fast deployment of a joint African Union and United Nations force expected to begin patrols by the year's end.

Senegal President Abdoulaye Wade said if it is found the troops killed were not equipped to defend themselves, Senegal would consider a pull out.

Five Senegalese troops were also killed in April in an attack in Darfur.

Among those killed in the attack late Saturday were seven soldiers from Nigeria, a Senegalese police officer and military observers from Mali and Botswana. Many more are missing.

Senegal military spokesman Ousmane Sar says the future of the nation's military involvement in Darfur is up to the government. The troops, he says, remain resolute, despite the heightened risks, in their commitment to defend Darfur or any area they are deployed to.

"It is a problem because when you have a soldier killed it is a problem," said Sar. "With the military, part of its job is danger everywhere, but we are facing it and we are taking care of it."

The expansive Darfur region is patrolled by about seven-thousand African troops. The combination AU and U.N. force is expected to total about 26,000.

Africa analyst Festus Aboagye with Pretoria-based Institute for Security Studies says it is difficult for often poor African nations to come up with and sustain an adequate force for a conflict such as Darfur.

"You are talking about a continent where democracies are fragile and there are other serious law and order issues and serious crimes and then, of course, natural disasters and such," he said. "I am arguing that Africa is being expected to punch above its weight."

Aboagye says the African Union has put forth its best efforts to use African troops to solve African problems, but the funds and manpower are just not there.

"I think we need to commend the African Union for the political will it has been able to demonstrate. Beyond political will we must now deal with the substance, and the substance is what I think is worrisome," he said.

Saturday's attack is being called the worst aggression on African Union troops since their deployment to Darfur in 2004.

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