Darfur Shooting May Speed U.N. Action

Times Staff Writers

A 26-year-old U.S. aid official was shot in the face in Sudan’s Darfur region Tuesday when her convoy was ambushed, an incident likely to lend more urgency to a U.S. push to resolve the humanitarian crisis in the African nation.

State Department spokesman Adam Ereli said the United States had demanded an investigation of the attack, which occurred in daylight on a road the United Nations believed to be safe. Officials said the vehicle carrying the U.S. Agency for International Development employee was clearly marked.

Ereli said it was too early to know whether the worker was targeted because she was a U.S. official, “but obviously that possibility is ... on our minds.” The woman was not identified; her wounds were not life-threatening.

The shooting came as U.S. officials were promoting a new strategy to break a U.N. Security Council stalemate on a resolution for Sudan.


The U.S. has separated its resolution on Darfur, in Sudan’s west, into three parts -- peacekeeping, sanctions and accountability -- because disagreement over how to punish suspected Sudanese war criminals was delaying the deployment of peacekeepers and observers.

“We have literally run out of time on Sudan, and we felt we had to move ahead,” acting U.S. Ambassador Anne Patterson said.

The U.S. has asked for a vote Thursday on a resolution authorizing 10,000 peacekeepers for the central African nation.

Negotiations concerning the Darfur crisis had stalled over penalties for militia and government leaders who are accused of causing thousands of people to die and about 2 million others to be driven from their land in two years of systematic attacks.

“The conflict in Darfur is horrific,” Ereli said Tuesday. “The atrocities are outrageous. The time has long passed when this conflict should have been resolved. The government of Sudan bears a large share of the responsibility for this conflict.”

The resolutions on sanctions and a way to hold Sudanese leaders accountable for war crimes will be more difficult to negotiate. The U.S. would like to see a “no-fly” zone to prevent aerial attacks on civilians in Darfur, stiff sanctions against the government of Sudan, travel bans for Sudanese officials believed to be responsible for atrocities and war crimes tribunals to be established by the African Union.

Others object to a no-fly zone over Darfur either because they support the Sudanese government or because they believe it would be unenforceable, said a State Department official who spoke on the condition of anonymity. China, which has oil interests in Sudan, and Russia object to an embargo and other sanctions, their representatives have said.

The majority of the Security Council wants the International Criminal Court, which the United States does not recognize, to try Sudanese war criminals. Nigeria, which is not a member of the council, has put forward a sketchy proposal for another type of tribunal. France will introduce a competing resolution specifying that Sudanese war crimes be referred to the ICC.


“We are obliged to do that,” a French diplomat said. “It is exactly what the ICC was created for.”

France and other countries worry that the tribunal issue will not be resolved if it becomes a separate resolution.

The shooting will probably make the U.S. step up the diplomatic pressure for Security Council action, though “we’re already pressing hard on this anyway,” the State Department official said. He said it was not clear whether the attackers were rebels or the government-backed militias that oppose them.

The four-vehicle convoy was carrying a USAID Disaster Assistance Response Team, or DART, that was trying to determine where humanitarian aid was not reaching some of the displaced Sudanese. Statistics indicate that aid may not be reaching up to 30% of those who need it, the U.S. official said.


Although general violence in Darfur has declined, there has been an increase in attacks on aid vehicles by the anti-government rebels and by the militias created by the Sudanese government.

There are about 9,000 aid workers in Darfur, and attackers loot and sometimes steal aid trucks.

The U.N. last week withdrew all international staff in part of western Sudan to the state capital after Arab militias said they would target foreigners and U.N. convoys, said Jan Pronk, the top U.N. envoy in Sudan. A British man and two Sudanese relief workers were killed in Darfur late last year.

On Monday, the U.N.'s humanitarian agency accused the Sudanese government of violating the rights of displaced persons after the government demolished a camp outside Khartoum, the country’s capital, and forced about 11,000 people to move to another camp without their possessions.


Farley reported from the United Nations and Efron from Washington.