By UNDP Newsroom

The Security Council has joined the chorus of United Nations condemnation of yesterday's ambush by unknown assailants in Darfur in which three soldiers serving with the African Union-United Nations peacekeeping force were killed and a fourth was seriously wounded.

More than 20 gunmen opened fire without warning on the blue helmets as they were providing security to civilian engineers working near the West Darfur village of Nertiti, according to the peacekeeping mission, known as UNAMID.

The soldiers, all from Rwanda, returned fire but in the ensuing hour-long firefight three were slain. Three assailants were also killed and the others escaped.

In a statement to the press issued by Mexico, which holds the rotating Council presidency this month, the 15-member panel voiced concern that yesterday's attack occurred little more than a month after two Egyptian peacekeepers serving with UNAMID were killed in South Darfur.

“The members of the Security Council expressed their condolences to the families of those killed in the attacks as well as to the Government of Rwanda,” the statement said. “They encouraged the Government of Sudan to ensure that all the perpetrators are swiftly brought to justice and stressed that there must be an end to impunity for those that attack peacekeepers.”

Yesterday both the mission and Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon issued statements deploring the killing and stressing that UNAMID would not be deterred by the attack from carrying out its mandate to try to bring peace and security to the war-wracked region of western Sudan.

Twenty-seven UNAMID peacekeepers – all either soldiers or police officers – have now been killed since the start of 2008, when the mission took over duties from a previous AU operation.

As many as 300,000 civilians are estimated to have been killed and another 2.7 million displaced from their homes since fighting erupted in 2003 between rebels and Government forces backed by Janjaweed militiamen. All sides stand accused of grave human rights violations.

Meanwhile, the AU-UN Joint Chief Mediator for Darfur, Djibril Bassolé, today issued a joint statement with Qatari Foreign Minister Ahmed Bin Abdullah al-Mahmoud in which they said peace talks between the Sudanese Government and one the rebel groups, the Liberation and Justice Movement (LJM), will resume tomorrow.

Tomorrow's discussions will focus on wealth-sharing, including land rights. Between now and 1 July, four more rounds of discussions will be held on such issues as justice and reconciliation and the return of internally displaced persons (IDPs) and refugees.

The Government has reached peace agreements with several rebel groups, but the rebels have splintered into smaller groups and sporadic but deadly fighting between the two sides has continued.

Accra / Ghana/ Africa /