KHARTOUM, Sudan - Sudanese soldiers shot at a UN peacekeeping convoy in Darfur, critically wounding a driver barely a week into the force's new mission in the region, UN officials said yesterday.
The attack was the latest challenge for the UN force, which has been heralded by the international community as having the best chance to quell five years of violence in Darfur but took the field with only a fraction of the anticipated troops.
The United Nations condemned the Monday night attack, and said it had protested to the Sudanese government that "a clearly marked [UN] supplies convoy was attacked by elements of the Sudanese Armed Forces while on its way from Um Baru to Tine in West Darfur."
A Sudanese working as a driver was hit by seven bullets, a tanker truck was destroyed, and an armored personnel carrier was damaged, the UN said.
The South African peacekeepers protecting the convoy did not return fire and UN troops suffered no casualties, officials said.
"The government of Sudan has to provide unequivocal guarantees that there will be no recurrence of such activities by its forces," the UN said in a sharply worded statement. There was no immediate comment by Sudan's government.
A UN peacekeeper in Darfur said Sudanese troops apparently mistook the UN convoy for Darfur rebels who operate in the area near the border with Chad.
"It was nighttime; it seems the [Sudanese] soldiers lost their calm," he said.
A senior official with the UN peacekeeping mission, known as UNAMID, said the Sudanese soldiers stopped shooting after 10 minutes and let the convoy pass.
UN vehicles are painted white and marked with the UN logo to signal their neutrality.
It was unclear how the Sudanese soldiers could have mistaken them for rebels, who usually drive camouflaged pickup trucks and don't have armored vehicles.
The assault came amid escalating clashes along Sudan's border with Chad. Both governments have accused each other of supporting rebel movements in the two nations.