UNAfrican mission voices concern at rebel warning against using Darfur airports

21 February 2011The United Nations-African Union peacekeeping mission in Darfur today voiced its grave concern after a rebel leader warned that airports in the strife-torn region, as well as the rest of Sudan, have been designated as military targets and could be vulnerable to attacks by his group. Minni Minawi, the leader of the Sudan Liberation Army/Minni Minnawi faction (SLA/MM), also warned the UN-AU mission (UNAMID) and international organizations not to use any Sudanese airport lest they also be targeted.Relations have deteriorated between the Government and the SLA/MM in recent months, leading to heavy military confrontations, despite an ongoing process to resolve the conflict in Darfur. In a news release, UNAMID reminded all parties of its mandate of protection of civilians and ensuring unfettered access for humanitarian assistance. “The mission should like to emphasize that, owing to the region’s geographic conditions and lack of infrastructure, most humanitarian relief such as food, water, shelter and medical supplies is transported by air,” it stated. “Moreover, aid workers and UNAMID peacekeepers rely heavily on air transport to reach, protect and supply those living in remote locations.” It noted that any threats or hostile acts against UN and humanitarian personnel would have a devastating impact on innocent civilians. Moreover, any attack against UNAMID peacekeepers, given their role in Darfur, would be a war crime under international law.The more than 20,000-strong UNAMID was set up in 2008 to help end a war between the Government, backed by its militia allies, and various rebel groups, which has killed at least 300,000 people and displaced 2.7 million others since it erupted in 2003. read more