• Abyei is located southwest of Kadugli at a distance of about 120 miles. Due to its location on the ceasefire line between the north and the south, and also the discovery of large reserves of oil, it has been the bone of contention between the two warring parties in Sudan. The IAC flies regular sorties to Abyei where Sector HQ is located in a UN Camp adjacent to Abyei town. Though flying environment has been peaceful till now, Abyei is a sensitive area and minor tribal fights and road closures have been occurring necessitating additional air effort.
  • On 14 May 08, a minor altercation flared up and resulted in pitched battles all over Abyei town between the Sudan People�s Liberation Army(SPLA) and government�s Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF). The fighting intensified and involved the use of Medium Machine Guns and Mortars. An IAC heptr that had gone to Abyei on a routine passenger sortie was stranded and subsequently tasked to evacuate the UN civilian staff there as they were under fire. After assessing the security situation and the direction of fire, in consultation with base the crew made a safe get away along with the evacuees. This was followed by a request for another helicopter the same evening, which flew into Abyei avoiding ground fire and evacuated more UN staff by night, much to the delight of UN officials. Such operations involving evacuation of UN civilians had been accomplished for the first time in UN Mission in Sudan.
  • The following day, the IAC flew seven more shuttles into Abyei , evacuating a total of 109 UN personnel as sporadic firing continued, at all times ensuring the safety of the helicopters and passengers. By the end of the day the firing had ceased and with warring groups being brought to the table a sense of calm prevailed.
  • On 16 May 08, doing routine commitments were forced to make a halt at Abyei due to enroute bad weather. Their unscheduled night halt due to bad weather was again interrupted by some heavy firing which had again started. The crew was tasked by UN to evacuate the remaining UN personnel as fighting had intensified and the UN camp was under threat. Due to enroute bad weather it was decided the evacuation was completed the following day at first light. Having evacuated all the UN civilian staff out of Abyei, the UN camp needed to be reinforced with additional troops. UN again turned to IAC for flying Force Reserve Battalion troops. This was carried out in a four heptr Special Heliborne Operation which inducted 60 fully armed troops with their equipment and supplies in a precisely timed operation carried out with efficiency, stealth and speed and the mission included the COO/CO in the lead aircraft.
  • UN Mission in Sudan was to operate under Chapter 7 (Peace Enforcement) mandate of UN Security Council, but till now it has been operating under Chapter 6 (Peace Keeping). This is the first time that UN heptrs have had to operate to a hostile helipad under threat of fire and have been involved in emergency evacuation/ troop reinforcement in Sudan. It is noteworthy that for the first time UN was convinced that passengers should be carried along with internal fuel tank as it reduces ground time on helipads and increases the range of the helicopters. Thus a precedence has been set for carriage of passengers in UN helicopters along with internal fuel tank. Detailed report of the mission is placed at Annexure I. A brief write up of Abyei-�The genesis of problem in Abyei and present situation� is placed at Annexure I.
  • The missions accomplished by the IAC between 14 May 08 and 17 May 08, wherein all the UN civilian staff have been moved to safety from Abyei and reinforcements have been inducted, have been praised by the highest quarters in the UN Force HQ. The aircrew earned accolades for their professionalism, bravery and sense of duty from none other than the Force Commander who had personally come to congratulate and show his appreciation for valiant effort by the Indian Air Force. Indian Air Force also won the gratitude of scores of UN staff who were evacuated from troubled team site of Abyei.


Evacuees at Kadugli


Under fire