KHARTOUM, Sudan — Seven Tanzanian peacekeepers were killed during an ambush Saturday in Sudan's Darfur region, the African Union-UN Mission said, the worst ever loss in the five-year history of the operation.
The attack near the peacekeepers' base at Manawashi, north of the South Darfur state capital Nyala, adds to deteriorating security in Sudan's far-west region.
"Seven peacekeepers were killed and 17 were injured," UNAMID's acting spokesman Christopher Cycmanick told AFP. A later UN statement identified them as Tanzanians.
The ambush occurred about 16 miles west of another UNAMID base at Khor Abeche, Cycmanick said.
"The UNAMID team came under heavy fire from a large unidentified group. Following an extended firefight, the patrol was extracted by UNAMID reinforcements", a statement said.
The wounded included two female police advisers. Such advisers are typically unarmed.
UN leader Ban Ki-moon denounced the killings.
"The secretary general was outraged to learn of a deadly attack on peacekeepers in Darfur which occurred this morning," said UN spokesman Martin Nesirky.
Ban sent "deepest sympathies" to the families of the dead and the Tanzanian government.
"The secretary general condemns this heinous attack on UNAMID, the third in three weeks, and expects that the government of Sudan will take swift action to bring the perpetrators to justice."
UNAMID chief Mohamed Ibn Chambas also condemned "this heinous attack."
Earlier this month three Nigerian peacekeepers were wounded and an ambulance with their patrol was shot up in Labado, east of Nyala, Herve Ladsous, the UN's undersecretary general for peacekeeping, said during a visit to Sudan.
About 50 UNAMID members have died in hostile action since the mission began late in 2007. Before Saturday's attack, six peacekeepers had been killed in Darfur since October.
Despite repeated UN calls for the perpetrators to be brought to justice however, UN sources say they are unaware of anyone having been held accountable in Sudan for killing a peacekeeper.
In April, a Nigerian peacekeeper was killed and two others wounded in an assault on their base east of Nyala.
The authorities denied suggestions from local sources that the attack appeared to have been planned and carried out by government-linked forces.
A UN panel of experts earlier this year reported that former government militia fighters had sometimes expressed their discontent with the current government by "direct attacks on UNAMID staff and premises."
Rebels have been fighting the Arab-dominated Khartoum for 10 years in Darfur and have contributed to some of the unrest this year.
Security problems have more recently been compounded by the inter-tribal fighting, kidnappings, carjackings and other crimes, many suspected to be the work of government-linked militia and paramilitary groups.
© AFP 2013