- The Washington Times - Saturday, October 1, 2005

KHARTOUM, Sudan — The African Union Mission in Sudan has accused government forces and Arab militias of launching joint attacks on villages and refugee camps in Darfur, in which at least 44 civilians were killed.

These include an attack Wednesday on the Aro Sharow refugee camp in which the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said 34 persons died.

“A number of coordinated offensive operations have been undertaken by the GOS (government of Sudan) and the Janjaweed Arab militia,” Ambassador Baba Gana Kingibe told journalists in Khartoum yesterday.

Coordinated attacks on a number of villages in North Darfur on Sept. 18 “resulted in the death of 12 civilians, five seriously wounded and the displacement of about 400 civilians.

“Heavy and small weapons mounted on vehicles were reportedly used by GOS, in close coordination with about 300 Janjaweed Arab militia,” Mr. Kingibe said.

Separately, “some reportedly 400 Janjaweed Arab militia on camels and horseback went on the rampage in Aro Sharow, Acho and Gozmena villages in West Darfur” on Wednesday, he said.

“Our reports indicate that the previous day and indeed on the actual day of the attack GOS helicopter gunships were observed overhead,” Mr. Kingibe said.

This “gives credence” to a claim by the Darfur rebels of collusion between government forces and the Janjaweed, he said, adding that the African Union would convene an emergency session to discuss how to deal with the spike in violence.

The attacks, which he said were confirmed by humanitarian aid agencies and other NGOs in the area, “took a heavy toll … and about 80 houses/shelters [were] looted and set ablaze.”

Troops and police also launched a “well-rehearsed combined operation” on Tawila town and its neighboring camp, “resulting in a number of deaths, massive displacement of civilians and the destruction of several houses in the surrounding areas as well as some tents,” Mr. Kingibe said.

He noted that Sudanese Liberation Army (SLA) rebels had attacked and occupied the Sudanese government garrison town of Shearia on Sept. 19, but later complied with an AU appeal “to vacate Shearia and refrain from acts capable of derailing the peace talks.”

As a result, “if the GOS forces claim that their latest acts of cease-fire violations are in retaliation for earlier acts of provocation by the SLA, this cannot be justified given the deliberately calculated and wanton destruction wreaked by the disproportionate use of force on innocent civilians and IDPs (internally displaced people) in their camps.”

The ambassador called the “collapse of the security situation in Darfur during this period even more ironic and regrettable given the high hopes for an early resolution of the Darfur crisis.”

Two million people are estimated to have been driven from their homes by fighting since rebels, who accuse Khartoum of discrimination and neglect, rose up in February 2003.

The conflict is thought to have killed 300,000 people.

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