UN says Sudan threatened to shoot down its helicopter

August 5th, 2011 - 11:40 pm ICT by BNO News  

ABYEI, SUDAN (BNO NEWS) — The United Nations (UN) on Friday said that (North) Sudanese authorities threatened to shoot down a helicopter which was trying to medically evacuate three seriously injured peacekeepers after a landmine explosion.

The incident happened on Tuesday after a landmine exploded in Mabok, southeast of Abyei Town in Sudan’s troubled Abyei region. Four peacekeepers which were part of the newly-established United Nations Interim Security Force for Abyei (UNISFA) were killed in the blast, while seven others were injured.

Outgoing UN Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, Alain Le Roy, said on Friday that a UNISFA helicopter which had responded to the scene was not immediately allowed to take off to evacuate three critically injured peacekeepers. One peacekeeper had died before help arrived.

“We didn’t get the clearance for the Medevac helicopter to take off immediately,” said Le Roy. “They prevented us to take off by threatening to shoot down the helicopter.” The three critically injured peacekeepers died while waiting for clearance.

Le Roy said it was difficult to say whether the lives of the three peacekeepers could have been saved if the helicopter had been allowed to take off immediately but stressed that under the status of forces agreement entered into by the UN and Sudan, medical evacuation flights do not require prior authorization.

The UN said a board of inquiry is looking into the incident and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has raised the issue with Sudanese authorities. It was not immediately clear why Sudan waited three hours to allow the helicopter to take off.

UNISFA, which currently has an operating capacity of some 1,200 troops, was established in late June by the UN Security Council for an initial six months after violence broke out in the town of Abyei and surrounding areas which are contested by both (north) Sudan and South Sudan, forcing more than 113,000 people to flee.

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