UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - Four Ethiopian U.N. peacekeepers were killed on Tuesday by a landmine in Sudan's disputed Abyei region, the first deaths suffered by the new blue-helmeted force in the territory, a U.N. spokesman said.
"The Secretary-General (Ban Ki-moon) is saddened by the death of four peacekeepers serving in the United Nations Interim Security Force for Abyei who were killed by a landmine detonation during a patrol in Mabok, southeast of Abyei town," U.N. spokesman Martin Nesirky said.
Seven other peacekeepers were wounded in the explosion, he said.
In response to escalating fighting there, the U.N. Security Council in June authorized the deployment of 4,200 Ethiopian troops to the Abyei region for six months.
North and South Sudan both hope to include Abyei in their territory. South Sudan seceded from the north to form a new nation on July 9 in line with the results of a January referendum held as part of a 2005 peace deal that ended decades of civil war between the north and south.
Khartoum and Juba have yet to agree on who will control Abyei, stirring fears a long-running quarrel over the region could sour the secession and could spark a broader conflict.