U.N. Urges Investigation Into Killings of Aid Workers, Journalist
NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) _ A senior U.N. official has requested an investigation into the slayings last week in Sudan of three aid workers and a Norwegian journalist, according to a memo obtained Thursday.
In the memo, Vincent O’Reilly, the U.N. Children’s Fund representative in Kenya, questioned explanations given by Sudanese rebels for the deaths.
Autopsies on two of the aid workers showed they were not killed in crossfire during fighting between rebel factions, as the insurgents have claimed, according to an Oct. 4 memo to the U.N. Department of Humanitarian Affairs in Geneva.
Francis Ngure, a Kenyan working as a U.N. driver, and Vilma Gomez, a Filipina nurse with the U.S.-based agency Interaid, both died from a single gunshot to the head, according to the memo.
They died an estimated three days after UNICEF employee Myint Maung of Burma and Norwegian freelance journalist Helge Hummelvoll were slain Sept. 27, the memo said.
U.N. sources said autopsies showed Maung and Hummelvoll died of multiple gunshots fired from behind at close range.
Hummelvoll and the aid workers were killed after being taken hostage in the southern town of Loa by a rebel commander defecting from the mainstream branch of the Sudan People’s Liberation Army.
The United Nations and aid groups evacuated 12 relief workers from the eastern Equatoria region of southern Sudan where the killings occurred. The aid groups had been caring for 100,000 displaced people in the area.
The mainstream faction claims Maung and Hummelvoll died in crossfire during fighting as the defecting commander, William Nyuon Bany, fled. It claims Bany then executed Ngure and Mrs. Gomez after the vehicle in which he was fleeing ran out of fuel.
The Nasir faction to which Bany was fleeing claims the mainstream faction killed the four aid workers during ambushes.
″Throughout this sad episode, the SPLA response can be best summarized as callous, obstructive and deliberately committed to misinforming us,″ O’Reilly said in his memo to Charles La Muniere, second in command at the U.N. Department of Humanitarian Affairs.
U.N. Operation Lifeline Sudan has requested a meeting Saturday of all U.N. and aid agency personnel working in Sudan’s vast south, where more than a million people are in need of assistance.
O’Reilly said the meeting would aim to reassess security and the relationship between the aid agencies and insurgents.
Southern Sudan has been gripped by civil war for nine years. The rebels claimed to have won control of about 90 percent of the region until a government offensive earlier this year.
Throughout the conflict, aid agencies have tried to work in both rebel and government areas and in 1988, won agreement from both sides to do so officially.
However, intensification of the war this year, in which the government has retaken more than a dozen towns, has barred relief work in much of the region.