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Monday, 09/20/2010

Russia says its helicopter pilot in Darfur held by pro-government Janjaweed militia


Thursday, July 29, 2010

July 28, 2010 (KHARTOUM) — A senior official in Moscow today revealed that a crew member of a Russian helicopter operating under a UN contract in Darfur region who has gone missing on Monday was being held by the notorious Janjaweed militias.

Russian special envoy to Sudan Mikhail Margelov (AFP)
The head of the joint African Union - United Nations mission in Darfur (UNAMID) Ibrahim Gambari told the UN Security Council (UNSC) yesterday that the helicopter was transporting members of the Security Arrangements Committee of the Liberation and Justice Movement to locations in South Darfur.
Earlier reports by the Russian foreign ministry suggested that the helicopter belonging to the Russian airline UTair, which had four Russian crew members on board, was seized by Darfur rebels. However, this report was later denied by both the Sudanese authorities and UNAMID.
“Yesterday we were receiving rather contradictory information as to who had seized our pilots and why. It has become clear today that our helicopter pilots are in the hands of regular armed formations that theoretically must obey Khartoum the so-called Janjaweed,” the Russian special envoy to Sudan Mikhail Margelov told Russia 24 television according to the Russian news agency Itar-Tass.
Margelov said that the militia "has for a long time received no money from the central government,” tried “to express discontent with the attitude of the official Khartoum to them”.
A U.N. spokesman said today that the missing Russian pilot and the three rebel commanders who were on-board the helicopter were beaten "at the scene".
"Subsequently the crew and passengers, with the exception of the pilot, were taken to a government military camp" U.N. spokesman Martin Nesirky said. he expressed concern about fate of the Russian pilot.
However, Margelov expressed optimism that the pilot will soon be released.
“The commander of the crew is being held. Very active consultations with the Janjaweed continue. Influential representatives of different Darfur tribes and groups of influence have joined the talks. I have a feeling that the crisis may be settled in the foreseeable future,” he said.
The Russian official defended the Sudanese government saying they have nothing to do with the militia that carried out the kidnapping saying that at some point the Janjaweed supposed to obey Khartoum stopped doing that.
“And instead began putting sand in the wheels, standing in the way of Khartoum which is very interested in negotiations with different armed groups and in achieving political settlement in Darfur,” Margelov said.
He also noted that incidents involving Russian helicopter crews are rare in the region.
“Russia is the only country which has had no hostages in Sudan till the latest incident,” Margelov stressed. “I am absolutely confident that no discontent with Russian politics or Russia’s stance on the Darfur settlement is expressed by that incident,” the Russian parliamentarian said.
He also said that the conflict in Darfur “is at the stage of an active settlement”. “Mediatory efforts of the United Nations and the African Union, Qatar, the work of special representatives for Sudan of all five countries that are permanent members of the U.N. Security Council bears fruit and the situation there is much better than in the autumn of 2006, when I first visited Darfur,” Margelov added.
Rebels in Sudan’s western region of Darfur rose up against the government in February 2003, saying Khartoum discriminated against non-Arab farmers there.
Khartoum mobilized proxy Arab militia to help quell the revolt. Some militiamen, known locally as Janjaweed, pillaged and burned villages, and killed civilians.
The Sudanese government initially denied any links to the Janjaweed.
however In 2005, Sudan’s former spy chief Salah Gosh admitted that his government armed the Janjaweed militias adding that they would not make the same mistake in the country’s east where the local populating began to take arms against the central government.











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