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Most Abducted AU Personnel Released in Darfur

The African Union is holding an emergency meeting, following the abduction Sunday of 38 peacekeepers in Darfur, most of whom have been freed, and the murders of two Nigerian peacekeepers Saturday in another part of Darfur.

African Union spokesman Noureddine Mezni tells VOA the workers were taken hostage Sunday by a dissident faction of the Darfur rebel group Justice and Equality Movement.

He says rebels initially abducted an 18-member patrol that included military and international observers, including one from the United States, and a rebel representative. Rebels then captured a team sent out to rescue the patrol.

Mr. Mezni says the kidnapping prompted the African Union to take a hard look at its mission in Darfur.

"We have today a very important meeting, an emergency meeting of the Peace and Security Council of the African Union," he said. "This meeting will take appropriate measures and action in order to strengthen the mission."

Mr. Mezni did not specify what measures and action the African Union was discussing.

The United Nations also condemned Sunday's abductions. U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan was quoted as saying that U.N. aid to Darfur could be suspended if such kidnapping and other incidents continue in the war-torn region.

Another concern for the African Union is Saturday's ambush in Nyala by another Darfur rebel group, the Sudan Liberation Army.

Mr. Mezni describes the fall-out of that attack.

"The result was two killed among our troops, two missing in action, and four injured, plus of course two civilians also who died during this ambush," he said.

The pan-African body issued a statement Sunday expressing what it called its utter indignation at the killings, and called for all parties to respect cease-fire agreements that had been signed, so that the AU efforts in the area would not be undermined.

The Sudan Liberation Army, the Justice and Equality Movement, and a militia called Janjaweed that many say is being supported by the Sudanese government, and Sudanese troops have been battling one another in Darfur since 2003.

The fighting has killed tens of thousands of people and driven more than two million others from their homes.

More than 6,000 African Union peacekeepers are in Darfur to monitor a cease-fire between pro-government forces and rebels.