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African Union Accuses Sudan in Darfur Attacks

October 02, 2005|From Times Wire Services

KHARTOUM, Sudan — The African Union on Saturday accused Sudanese government forces of attacking civilians in the country's Darfur region and committing acts of "calculated and wanton destruction" that have killed at least 44 people and displaced thousands over two weeks.

Sudanese forces have also painted their military vehicles in the colors of the African Union cease-fire monitors "in violation of all established norms and conventions," the chief African Union envoy to Sudan, Ambassador Baba Gana Kingibe, said Saturday at a news conference in the Sudanese capital.

Kingibe gave four instances since Sept. 18 of Sudanese army troops coordinating operations with pro-government militiamen, called janjaweed by their victims. He said rebels also had violated cease-fire agreements.

But his accusations against the government were particularly unusual because the African Union has generally refrained from apportioning blame in the Darfur fighting. Sudan's government has repeatedly denied any collusion with the Arabic-speaking militia blamed for the bulk of human rights violations in the two-year conflict.

The government did not respond to Kingibe's remarks Saturday.

More than 180,000 people have died in Darfur and 2 million have been displaced since non-Arab residents rebelled against the government, accusing it of neglect and discrimination.

On Sept. 18, the army and militiamen attacked six settlements in raids that killed 12 people and displaced about 4,000 civilians, Kingibe said.

On Wednesday, the forces attacked the Aro Sharrow refugee camp and two villages, resulting in the deaths of 32 people. Government helicopter gunships flew overhead as "reportedly 400 janjaweed Arab militia on camels and horseback went on the rampage," Kingibe said.

"This apparent land and air assault gives credence to the repeated claim by the rebel movements of collusion between the government of Sudan forces and the janjaweed," he said.

On Thursday, government troops and police raided the town of Tawila and an adjacent refugee camp. Some of the government vehicles were painted white like those of the African Union mission, he said.

Kingibe said that during the attack, thousands of people from the township and the refugee camp, as well as many humanitarian workers, fled to the African Union camp.

On Friday, the African Union received reports of ground forces attacking Sheiria, a town of 33,000 people in south Darfur, and helicopter gunships dropping bombs on the nearby village of Ato. The African Union is investigating the extent of casualties and damage, Kingibe said.

Kingibe said he was calling on the government to immediately abide by the cease-fire.

The African Union has about 5,600 soldiers acting as cease-fire monitors in Darfur.

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