General News of Sunday, 15 April 2007
NYALA, Sudan - Unidentified Darfur gunmen killed an African Union officer from Ghana and hijacked his car within yards of the peacekeeping mission's headquarters.
The officer was traveling alone in his vehicle when he was ambushed late Saturday, said AU spokesman Noureddine Mezni.
The ambush took place hours after Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte visited the AU headquarters in El Fasher as part of a trip to Sudan to push the government to allow U.N. troops in Darfur to reinforce the overwhelmed AU mission.
It was the third slaying of an AU peacekeeper this month.
"If this growing hostility continues, truly the (AU) mission will be compromised and we will have to take the necessary measures," Mezni told The Associated Press.
Mezni and other AU officials said they did not know the identity of the gunmen, but would investigate the killing, which took place on the outskirts the government-controlled town of El Fasher in North Darfur, where the 7,000-strong AU mission has had its headquarters since deploying to Darfur in 2004.
"More than 90 vehicles have been hijacked since the beginning of the mission," Mezni said.
He accused certain Darfur fighting factions of trying to "drag the AU into the conflict."
"This cannot happen," he said. "We came here to protect civilians. If this is becoming impossible, we will take appropriate measures," he said.
The latest attack brought to 18 the number of peacekeepers killed in Darfur. An AU officer is also being held hostage since being kidnapped in December.