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Sudan/Darfur: Egyptian troops arrive to boost strength of joint UN-African Union force

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More than 160 Egyptian personnel arrived in Darfur today as part of a large battalion that will boost the strength of the joint United Nations-African Union force deployed earlier this year in an attempt to quell the fighting and humanitarian suffering in the strife-torn Sudanese region.

More personnel from the Egyptian infantry battalion are expected to arrive on Friday and Saturday in El Fasher, the capital of North Darfur state and the headquarters of the force known as (UNAMID).

Deputy Force Commander Major General Emmanuel Karake Karenzi welcomed the new arrivals, who will be deployed in Umm Kadada in North Darfur, where they will join the 177 members of the advance party that is already on the ground.You are therefore more than soldiers of peace; you are also ambassadors of the African Union and ambassadors of the United Nations

"I want you to look at yourselves as part of one family," he told the Egyptian personnel. "You are therefore more than soldiers of peace; you are also ambassadors of the African Union and ambassadors of the United Nations."

Another 184 members of the Egyptian infantry battalion are expected to arrive at the end of the year. Egypt's contribution to UNAMID includes a signal company, engineering company, heavy transport company and another infantry battalion that is expected to arrive in the near future.

UNAMID should have about 26,000 uniformed personnel, including just below 20,000 troops, when it reaches full deployment. It currently has only around 10,000 personnel, and senior UN officials have repeatedly called on countries to supply the remaining troops and equipment that are needed.

An estimated 300,000 people have been killed and 2.7 million others displaced from their homes in Darfur since rebels began fighting Government forces and allied militiamen, known as the Janjaweed, in 2003.

Yesterday UNAMID joined Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in welcoming the Sudanese Government's declaration of an immediate ceasefire between its forces and the rebel movements in Darfur and also Khartoum's stated plan to disarm allied militias operating in the region.

"This ceasefire could signal the start of a new phase in the search for a just and lasting peace in Darfur," UNAMID said in a statement.