Darfur rebels in the Sudan captured at least 49 peacekeepers belonging to the United Nations-African Union peacekeeping mission (UNAMID) in rebel-held territory on Sunday.
Most of the peacekeepers are of Senegalese descent.
The Justice and Equality Movement (JEM), a Darfur rebel group fighting against the Sudanese government, also claimed that they have seized three Sudanese security officials
According to Al Jazeera, a spokesman for JEM, Gibril Adam Bilal, told reporters: They [peacekeepers] came to an area controlled by JEM without permission and without informing JEM.
Bilal also said that his group will “investigate the three Sudanese because we think they are members of Sudan's intelligence and security service.
The rebel spokesman added that the captured men are safe, but did not disclose their exact location.
Bilal also told Reuters: If it is true that UNAMID works with Sudan security agents, then we will ask the UN to fire the head of the UNAMID force.”
Darfur is a vast region in the western part of Sudan -- Al Jazeera noted that Senegalese peacekeepers typically patrol the northwest portion of Darfur near the border with Chad.
An al Jazeera correspondent in Khartoum Sudan, Harriet Martin, commented: It's obviously a very shocking turn of events in Darfur because nothing like this has ever happened before. Relative to other peacekeeping forces around the world, it has had a pretty quiet mission. This is going to be a huge shock for the whole structure of the UN peacekeepers there.”
Martin added: What's really not clear at this stage though is if this has come from JEM leadership or whether it's JEM operatives working ... opportunistically, if you like, on the ground.
Earlier in February, JEM released five Turkish nationals whom they held captive for several months.
The Darfur rebellion against Khartoum has claimed at least 300,000 lives over the past nine years and displaced another 2 million people. Human rights activists and others charge that the government-backed Janjaweed militia has committed genocide and other atrocities upon the Darfur people.
Sudan’s president Omar al-Bashir is wanted by the International Criminal Court for alleged genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes in connection with the Darfur issue.