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Five AU Peacekeepers Killed in Darfur


Five African Union peacekeepers have been killed in Sudan's embattled Darfur region. The African Union says the attack was unprovoked and an investigation into the incident is under way. For VOA, Noel King has this report from Khartoum.

Sunday became the deadliest day for the African Union Mission in Sudan since peacekeepers arrived in Darfur in 2004.

Four peacekeepers were killed by unknown armed assailants while guarding a water point near Um Barro, north Darfur.

A fifth peacekeeper died on Monday of injuries sustained during the attack.

African Union spokesman Noureddine Mezni told VOA that details of the attack are still unclear.

"It was an unprovoked attack. This is the heaviest loss of soldiers since the beginning of the operation back in 2004," said Mezni. "Really, it is a serious development. It is a matter of deep concern for the leadership of the African Union."

Three of the attackers were also killed during the fighting.

The African Union has become increasingly vulnerable to attacks by unidentified assailants.

In March, two African Union peacekeepers were shot and killed during an ambush in Gereida, in southern Darfur.

Critics charge the 7,000-member A.U. force cannot protect civilians while operating under a mandate that only allows it to act in self-defense.

Sudan is facing intense international pressure to allow U.N. peacekeepers to strengthen the struggling A.U. forces.

The Sudanese government has sent conflicting signals regarding how much U.N. support it will allow.

The Darfur conflict has raged for four years, killing an estimated 200,000 people and displacing more than 2.5 million others.