Egypt sends more peacekeepers to Darfur

KHARTOUM, May 28 — Egypt dispatched 78 troops to join African Union peacekeepers in Darfur, three days after one of its officers was killed in in the war-torn Sudanese region, Egyptian officials said on Sunday.

The group was flown directly to Darfur, said the officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorised to speak to the media.

An Egyptian peacekeeper who was among a small group of reinforcements sent to Darfur was shot to death at his residence late Friday. The death of Lieutenant Colonel Ehab Nazir marked Egypt’s first casualty since it sent a small contingent of peacekeepers to the troubled region.

Gunmen shot the Egyptian officer in El Fasher, the capital of North Darfur state, and looted his home. His body was flown back to Egypt on Sunday. Earlier this month, Egypt, Sudan’s northern Arab neighbour, announced that it was offering a new peace plan in the war-torn African nation.

Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit described the proposal as “a road map” for a political process that would also “alleviate international tension.”

Aboul Gheit offered little details about the plan but said it included an international conference on Darfur similar to the one held in Addis Abbas, Ethiopia in November.

More than 200 000 people have been killed and 2.5 million chased from their homes in Darfur’s four years of fighting.

Sudan’s hard-line government has been stalling on an earlier understanding to deploy a 22 000-strong joint UN-AU force in Darfur, saying it would only allow a larger African force with technical and logistical support from the United Nations.

The AU has faced increased hostility from warring factions in Darfur, and has lost 19 of its own peacekeepers since it first deployed in June 2004.

The UN began deploying some 180 staff to Darfur in December as part of the first of three phases to bolster the AU force. The second phase envisions the 3 000 UN peacekeepers moving into Darfur this year, but the AU and UN both acknowledge that even the first batch of 180 reinforcements has not yet all arrived. – AP

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