5 February 2009The leader of an armed group involved in recent combat in the South Darfur region of Sudan has pulled his militia out of the conflict zone as a result of the decision made by the hybrid African Union (AU) and United Nations peacekeeping mission in Darfur (UNAMID) to stay and protect civilians in the area. The leader of an armed group involved in recent combat in the South Darfur region of Sudan has pulled his militia out of the conflict zone as a result of the decision made by the hybrid African Union (AU) and United Nations peacekeeping mission in Darfur (UNAMID) to stay and protect civilians in the area.There have been renewed clashes since last month in Muhajeria involving the Government of Sudan and the rebel groups known as the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) and the Sudan Liberation Army/Mini Minawi (SLA/MM).The fighting in Muhajeria has exposed about 30,000 people to previously unseen levels of violence, destroyed an aid agency’s office and forced the UN to relocate its staff.JEM leader Khalil Ibrahim said he made his decision to withdraw due to UNAMID’s decision to remain in Muhajeria and appeals by Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon, AU Commission Chairperson Jean Ping and the international community for blue helmets to protect the local population. Joint AU-UN Special Representative Rodolphe Adada today wrapped up a two-day visit to N’Djamena, the capital of neighbouring Chad, where he met with top JEM officials as part of UNAMID’s efforts to establish a good working relationship with all parties involved in the Darfur conflict.Mr. Adada commended the JEM decision to remove its forces from Muhajeria, noting that “the withdrawal no doubt saved many lives and prevented tragic consequences for civilians.”He stressed UNAMID’s absolute neutrality in dealing with all parties involved in the conflict, as this impartiality is the only way for the Mission to achieve its mandate. For its part, JEM praised the mission for refusing to evacuate Muhajeria in a bid to continue its humanitarian assistance for civilians.Fighting in Darfur erupted in 2003, which pitted rebels against Government forces and its allied Janjaweed militiamen, causing an estimated 300,000 deaths and forcing some 2.7 million people to flee their homes.