KHARTOUM — A Sudanese driver for the World Food Programme has been shot dead in war-torn South Kordofan state, the UN agency said on Sunday as officials called for a ceasefire to allow wider aid access.
The UN has described a worsening humanitarian crisis in South Kordofan and nearby Blue Nile but has been severely restricted in its movement.
"Our driver was killed yesterday in an armed attack in an area some 80 kilometres (50 miles) north of Kadugli," WFP spokeswoman Amor Almagro told AFP.
Jamal Al Fadil Farag Allah, married with five children, is the first WFP employee to be killed in Sudan, she said.
"He was driving fellow staff member Saad Yousif when their vehicle was attacked by two unknown assailants," Almagro said.
They were on a main road in a marked UN vehicle on official business, she added.
Yousif, who was wounded, was airlifted to Khartoum on Sunday for treatment.
More than 200,000 refugees have fled a worsening humanitarian situation in South Kordofan and nearby Blue Nile states since fighting between government and rebels from the Sudan People's Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N) began in June last year, the United Nations says.
Ethnic minority insurgents of the SPLM-N fought alongside southern rebels during Sudan's 22-year civil war, which ended in a 2005 peace deal and South Sudan's independence in July last year.
A government negotiator, Kamal Obeid, suggested SPLM-N was behind the WFP attack, saying "those groups are not serious about having peace."
But a rebel spokesman said the main road where the shooting happened should have been under government control.
Khartoum has cited security concerns in tightly restricting the operations of foreign relief agencies in the war zone.
After African Union-led talks in Ethiopia, AU mediator Thabo Mbeki on Saturday announced an agreement between Sudan, the United Nations, the AU and the Arab League to allow for humanitarian access in South Kordofan and Blue Nile.
Obeid, who headed Sudan's negotiating team, told reporters that Khartoum agreed to allow the three organisations to work alongside it to assess humanitarian needs and then jointly deliver aid.
"The team which delivers the aid has to be approved by the government of Sudan," he said before Sudan signed a memorandum with UN, AU and Arab league officials in Khartoum on Sunday.
"And the delivery of aid requires a cessation of aggression in specific areas, for a length of time," Obeid added.
The aid agreement "needs to be accompanied by a cessation of hostilities and political negotiations" between Khartoum and the SPLM-N, the European Union's foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said.
Rebels issued a copy of what they say is a memorandum they already signed with the tripartite group to allow aid into SPLM-N zones.
It says SPLM-N agrees on an immediate one-month cessation of hostilities but cautions the aid operation "is dependent on the consent of the GoS (government) on access to the SPLM-N controlled areas."
The WFP worker's death came two days after armed men in another part of the country spent about 12 hours looting and ransacking a WFP compound, Almagro said.
The raid began at about midday on Thursday and continued until early Friday at the compound in Kutum town in North Darfur, she said.
"Our office and guest house were looted," with furniture, fuel, computers and other items stolen, Almagro said. WFP staff hid and were unhurt.
"Since the security situation remains tense and unpredictable we have decided to suspend our operation until the situation calms down," she said.
The attack against the WFP office came a day after a district chief died from gunshot wounds suffered in an ambush of his car in Kutum, raising tensions.
A Briton who worked for the WFP in Nyala, South Darfur, was kidnapped for nearly three months this year before his release in May.
Banditry, inter-ethnic fighting and clashes between rebel groups and government forces continue in Darfur, in Sudan's far west, nearly a decade after black African rebels first rose up against the Arab-dominated Khartoum regime.
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