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Sudan: staff relocated after artillery fire

Briefing notes

Sudan: staff relocated after artillery fire

10 November 2000

UNHCR has relocated virtually all its local and international staff (62) from the Sudanese town of Kassala near the border with Eritrea, to Showak, further inland, after Kassala came under artillery fire before dawn on Wednesday. Shells exploded in the immediate vicinity of the UNHCR office and heavy small arms fire could be heard but the building was not hit. The Sudanese government said rebels were behind the attack.

During the attack, plainclothes Sudanese army officers raided the UNHCR office in Kassala, detained two local staff and seized communications equipment. One of our colleagues was released the same day but the other one was freed only on Thursday, after UNHCR protested to the government in Khartoum. We welcome the government's prompt intervention with the military on the ground. We also expect an immediate return of the radio equipment. It was not immediately clear why our staff were detained. There are an estimated 27,000 Eritrean refugees in the Kassala area. UNHCR had an unusually large number of staff in Kassala at the time of the incident since we were in the middle of registration of Eritrean refugees.