New York, US (PANA) - The joint UN/AU mission in Darfur said Monday it had stepped up presence in a camp for internally displaced persons (IDPs) in North Darfur, after Sudanese government forces carried out an "extensive search operation early Sunday without notifying or consulting the mission first."
A UNAMID statement, circulated at the UN headquarters in New York, stated that, "the reasons given for the search, which occurred at 6 a.m. local time in the Zam Zam camp located on the outskirts of El Fasher, were to search for and arrest criminal elements, seize weapons and confiscate illegal substances."
It said that, "about 100 vehicles were used by a combined Sudanese military/police force to cordon off the camp in the operation."
It also quoted the government as saying that the operation resulted in the arrest of 37 individuals, the impounding of ten 4x4 vehicles, the seizure of three assault rifle magazines, unspecified quantities of ammunitions and suspected stolen goods and illegal substances.
UNAMID, however, said its senior leadership had contacted Sudanese government security officials and the Wali (Governor) of North Darfur, with a view to urgently addressing the matter.
It noted that the operation did not abide by an agreement between the mission and the government, which requires notification and consultations prior to any actions regarding IDP camps.
"The Sudanese authorities did not inform UNAMID of their plans until nearly three hours after they were set in motion," it added.
The statement also said UN/AU Joint Special Representative and head of UNAMID, Professor Ibrahim Gambari, had called on the authorities "to act with the utmost restraint, particularly with regard to the use of force and ensure that no one is harmed."
It said Gambari had despatched an integrated team of civilian, police and military personnel, as well as an inter-agency assessment group, led by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) and the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), to the camp to ensure that the safety and the rights of the community were respected.
"The teams reported that, although the atmosphere was tense and the IDPs apprehensive, no shots were fired and no violence, harassment or destruction/theft of property took place," the mission reported.
UNAMID further said it had strengthened the presence of its police in the camp and would follow up and monitor the situation, including the status of those arrested.
-0- PANA AA/BOS 24Jan2011