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Friday, September 26, 2008

EU: Sudan using white aircraft resembling UN's for Darfour attacks

LONDON — The European Union has charged that Sudan has been using aircraft mistaken for those of the United Nations in military operations in Darfour.

The EU said the Sudanese Air Force aircraft are the same color as those deployed by the UN-African Union mission in Darfour, or UNAMID, Middle East Newsline reported. They said Sudan has been flying both fixed- and rotary-wing white unmarked aircraft to avoid rebel surface-to-air missile strikes.

"It condemns the use of white aircraft in these operations, which is deliberately intended to create confusion with United Nations aircraft," the EU said in a statement by the French presidency.

Sudan has operated the UN-like aircraft in its military offensive in Darfour in September 2008. EU officials said the Sudanese Air Force attacked suspected rebel strongholds in the northern portion of the war-torn Darfour province.

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"The European Union calls on the Sudanese authorities to put an immediate end to the military operations which started a few days ago in Darfour," the EU said on Sept. 23.

UNAMID confirmed that UN-looking aircraft were being sent on missions by the Sudanese military over rebel-held areas of Darfour. On Sept. 21, an unidentified unmarked white helicopter was spotted over an area controlled by the Sudan Liberation Army rebel group.

"A white color helicopter not marked with UN emblem or any identifiable markings was seen flying over the eastern part of Sortony," UNAMID said on Sept. 23. "The situation is being monitored."

The EU said international aid sent to Darfour was not reaching civilian communities because of the Sudanese military use of UN-looking aircraft. In mid-September, rebel forces fired toward a UNAMID helicopter in northern Darfour, the second attack in as many weeks on the peace-keeping force.

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