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U.N. staff detained in Darfur

A UN helicopter delivering voting material and aid lands in Sudan. UPI/Tim McKulka/UN
A UN helicopter delivering voting material and aid lands in Sudan. UPI/Tim McKulka/UN | License Photo

KHARTOUM, Sudan, May 20 (UPI) -- The head of the U.N. mission in Darfur called on Sudanese authorities to release two civilian members of the peacekeeping mission immediately.

Ibrahim Gambari, the head of the hybrid U.N.-African Union peacekeeping mission in Darfur, said the government in Khartoum should honor a bilateral status of forces agreement and release two civilian peacekeepers.

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Gambari said U.N. staff members are protected by functional immunity in cases related to their official duties. The U.N. offices didn't elaborate on the issue.

The peacekeeping force said this week its flights were suspended by the government "until further notice" because of security concerns following Sudanese airstrikes on a village in Darfur. "In South Darfur, restrictions on the movement of aid groups have led to the cancellation of a number of humanitarian missions," the peacekeeping mission added.

A U.N. investigation in the district in the aftermath of the airstrike found no reports of casualties. Staff members were prevented from marking the sites of unexploded ordnance for safe disposal, however.

Darfur was the site of fierce fighting in 2003 that killed an estimated 300,000 people and displaced as many as 2.7 million.

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