Sudan accuses UN-AU peacekeepers of killing seven civilians in Darfur

Sudanese people walk past a member of the UN-African Union mission in Darfur at the Zam Zam camp for Internally Displaced People in Sudan on April 9, 2015 (AFP Photo/Ashraf Shazly)

Khartoum (AFP) - Sudan's government on Sunday accused peacekeepers in Darfur of killing seven civilians, disputing the UN-African Union mission's version of events in which it said its forces had repelled two attacks by gunmen.

The UN-AU Mission in Darfur (UNAMID) had said 40 gunmen fired on a patrol in South Darfur's Kass area on Thursday, before the peacekeepers returned fire and killed four assailants, and another patrol came under fire the next day.

But the foreign ministry said UNAMID peacekeepers at a water point in Kass were pursuing a group who had stolen their vehicle, when they opened fire on five men who were looking for their "stolen cattle" in the same area, killing them.

It said the peacekeepers fired at residents protesting over the incident at the mission's base in the area later the same day, killing one person, and another when they fired on a second protest on Friday.

Only four attackers were killed in the incident on Thursday, according to UNAMID, and none on Friday.

The mission said its forces killed the assailants on Thursday after they pursued gunmen who had stolen their water truck.

The ministry demanded the United Nations "compel its mission to follow the rules of conduct and respect the laws and regulations that govern its presence in Sudan".

"If the UN fails to do that, Sudan's government will do what it sees fit to preserve the rights of its citizens and preserve their lives," it added.

A committee will also investigate the events, the statement said.

The mission did not immediately comment, but on Saturday its acting head criticised reports in local media saying peacekeepers had initiated the events.

"In both incidents, UNAMID troops returned fire but did not initiate any shooting; they only acted to protect themselves," Abiodun Bashua said.

UNAMID deployed to Darfur in 2007, four years after ethnic rebels launched a campaign against the Arab-dominated Khartoum government, complaining of marginalisation.

Ties between Khartoum and UNAMID deteriorated last November after the mission's attempts to investigate reports of a mass rape in a Darfur village sparked the government's ire.

Sudan demanded UNAMID prepare to leave and talks resume in the second week of May about the mission's departure.

More than 300,000 people have been killed and another 2.5 million displaced in Darfur since the conflict began, the UN says.

President Omar al-Bashir is wanted by the International Criminal Court for war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide in Darfur.