Two civilians working with international peacekeepers in Sudan's
troubled Darfur region are missing following a raid on their residences.
A spokesman for the United Nations-African Union peacekeeping force says the gunmen stormed into the town of Zalingei early Saturday morning and seized a man and a woman.
The spokesman, Noureddine Menzi, says this is the first kidnapping of staff members working for the peacekeeping force. He also says the mission has contacted the kidnappers, and that outgoing political chief, Rodolphe Adada, has appealed for the release of the captives.
Zalingei is the hometown of Abdel Wahid al-Nur, the leader of the Sudan Liberation Movement (SLM), one of Darfur's main rebel groups. Al-Nur, speaking from Paris, criticized the kidnapping and denied the SLM was involved, but said it showed the weakness of the peacekeeping mission.
The kidnapping is the fourth since March and comes just days after the outgoing commander of the peacekeeping force, Martin Luther Agwai, said the area no longer is in a state of war.
The mission's political chief, Adada, previously angered some Western diplomats by calling the situation in Darfur "a low-intensity conflict."
Human rights groups describe the situation in Darfur as a genocide. The United Nations says up to 300,000 people have died over six years of fighting between rebel groups and government forces.
Sudan puts the death toll much lower, at 10,000.
The International Criminal Court has issued an arrest warrant for Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, whom it accuses of masterminding a campaign of rape, murder and other crimes against Darfur civilians.
Mr. Bashir has rejected the court's authority and has repeatedly traveled abroad in defiance of the arrest warrant.
Meanwhile, at least 36 civilians are dead in southern Sudan, the result of a tribal cattle raid.
Officials say gunmen from the Lou Nuer tribe attacked the settlement of Wernyol in the Twic East region of Jonglei state on Friday in an attempt to steal cattle from Dinka tribesmen. More than 50 people were wounded.
Clashes between rival ethnic groups break out frequently in southern Sudan.
The U.N. says at least 1,000 people have been killed as the result of inter-tribal violence this year.
Some information for this report was provided by AFP and Reuters.