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7 killed in attack on UN peacekeeping team

CAIRO -- Gunmen ambushed a United Nations peacekeeping team yesterday in Sudan's western region of Darfur, killing seven and wounding 17 in the deadliest-ever single attack on the international force in the country.

The assault included sustained heavy fire from machine guns and possibly rocket-propelled grenades, targeting the force about 15 miles west of the town of Khor Abeche, UN forces spokesman Chris Cycmanick said. Reinforcements later arrived to rescue the wounded, who included two female police advisers, the force said in a statement.

It wasn't immediately clear if any civilian personnel accompanied the team into the ambush, Cycmanick said. He declined to give the nationalities of those killed and wounded.

Tanzanian troops have regularly patrolled the area in the past. About 40 countries have contributed military personnel or police to the peacekeeping force.

Peacekeepers have been targeted by assailants in the past in the region since the international force began its work there in 2008. In the last fatal attack, gunmen shot dead a Nigerian peacekeeper in April in East Darfur State. Before yesterday's attack, 150 people associated with the UN mission had been killed while on duty in the region, according to the force's website.

The joint African Union-UN peacekeeping force, dubbed UNAMID, was established to protect civilians in Darfur, but also contributes to security for those providing humanitarian aid, verifying agreements, political reconciliation efforts and promoting human rights. It has about 16,500 troops and military observers and more than 5,000 international police.

No group immediately claimed responsibility for Saturday's attack. Tribal clashes remain common in the region and some former government militias have begun taking up arms again as fighting continues over land and resources.

Darfur has been gripped by bloodshed since 2003 when rebels took up arms against the government in Khartoum. More than 300,000 people have been killed in the conflict. The International Criminal Court indicted Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir in 2009 on genocide and war crimes charges over the fighting in Darfur. The country split into Sudan and South Sudan in 2011.

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