Story highlights

African Union - United Nations peacekeepers are attacked in a Darfur refugee camp

A peacekeeper from Bangladesh dies and another peacekeeper is wounded, UNAMID says

A UNAMID official calls the attack "cowardly deplorable" and a war crime

Widespread violence has plagued the Darfur region, in southern Sudan, since 2003

CNN —  

One international peacekeeper was shot dead and another was wounded early Sunday after a “gang” attacked their police post inside a refugee camp in Sudan’s embattled Darfur region, the African Union - United Nations Mission said.

The incident came amid continued fighting, much of pitting armed militia groups against Sudanese government forces in the region, which is near Sudan’s border with the new nation of South Sudan. Late last week, for instance, U.N. officials said all 25,000 people living in another Darfur refugee camp – this one the Kassab camp, in north Darfur – fled due to ongoing violence.

As to the latest incident, the joint mission, known as UNAMID, said in a statement Sunday that a “gang surrounded” its community policing center inside the Otash refugee camp in Nyala, South Darfur.

The armed men then began shooting, killing a peacekeeper from Bangladesh around 3:15 a.m. and wounding another, according to UNAMID. The infiltrators fled the scene after the A.U.-U.N. police unit returned fire, the mission said.

“The attack on our peacekeepers is cowardly (and) deplorable and our thoughts go to the families and friends of the fallen and the injured,” said Aichatou Mindaoudou, acting joint special representative for the mission.

Mindaoudou urged Sudan’s government to make a concerted bid to apprehend those responsible for the shooting, which she called a war crime under international law.

Violence has plagued Darfur for nearly a decade. The United Nations estimates as many as 300,000 people have been killed and almost 3 million people have been displaced from their homes since the Darfur conflict broke out in 2003.

In March of this year, the International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant for Sudan’s defense minister for 41 counts of crimes against humanity and war crimes allegedly committed in the Darfur region. Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir is also wanted for crimes against humanity by the ICC in connection with the conflict.

Chris Cycmanick, head of media relations for UNAMID, told CNN late last week that there was a drop in civilian casualties between 2010 and 2011 in Darfur, “but recently there has been an uptick in criminal activity.”

“The situation is troublesome, it is not supposed to be happening in Darfur, but there is still fighting going on,” Cycmanick said.

A UNAMID statement issued last Monday said the latest round of violence began after an incident on August 1, when three armed men carjacked the local district commissioner and his driver and shot them dead.

“Subsequently, on the same day armed men surrounded Kassab, looted the market, burnt down the Sudanese Police post in the camp and reportedly killed four persons (three civilians and one police officer) and injured six others,” the statement said.

Security continued to deteriorate over the following days in Kutum town, Kassab camp and another camp, Fataborno, “including fighting between the armed elements and government forces, as well as looting and displacement of civilians,” it said.

Nyala, where the early Sunday morning attack occurred, is about 300 kilometers (185 miles) south of Kutum.

According to a paper published last month by the independent monitoring group Small Arms Survey, violence has picked up of late since new non-Arab “Popular Defense Forces” have been recruited, trained and armed by the Sudanese government since late 2010 to force Zaghawa rebel groups out of a swath of the eastern Darfur region.

As a result, about 70,000 people had been displaced by mid-2011, and retaliatory attacks by both sides continue, the group said in its paper. Meanwhile, aerial bombardment has been used to target rebel forces and civilian villages believed to support them, in defiance of U.N. Security Council resolutions.

Weapons and ammunition also continue to flow into the hands of proxy forces and government forces in defiance of a “wholly ineffective” embargo on Darfur, the group reported.

CNN’s David McKenzie contributed to this report.