- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 25, 2008


EU condemns plane confusion

BRUSSELS | The European Union on Tuesday condemned the Sudanese military’s use of white-colored aircraft in strife-torn Darfur, calling it a deliberate attempt to create confusion with U.N. planes, which are painted white.

The EU also expressed concern that aid, some of it flown into Darfur by the United Nations, is no longer reaching parts of the region.

Rebel commanders have reported a spate of attacks in the past two weeks resulting in heavy fighting with government troops and allied militia backed by aircraft.

Peacekeepers from the joint U.N.-African Union mission in Darfur, called UNAMID, said an unidentified white helicopter had been spotted on Monday flying in north Darfur over villages controlled by a rebel Sudan Liberation Army (SLA) faction.

Rebels in north Darfur said they had seen both helicopters and airplanes flying over their positions painted in white, prompting them to mistake them initially for U.N. aircraft.

“This is very dangerous, because our soldiers now don’t know if white aircraft are a threat or not,” said Ibrahim al-Hillo, a commander of the SLA faction led by Paris-based exile Abdel Wahid Mohammed Nur.

Last week, a UNAMID helicopter was fired at but not hit in north Darfur, the second attack this month on a peacekeeping helicopter.


21 refugees feared drowned in east

KHARTOUM | Twenty-one Eritrean and Somali refugees, including women and children, are feared to have drowned when their boat capsized in a river in east Sudan, the U.N. refugee agency said Wednesday.

They were part of a larger group of four boats crossing the Atbara River at night to evade police checkpoints in the early hours of Tuesday morning.

The group was said to be seeking work in the capital, Khartoum, or of hoping to travel on to Europe.

Two suspected smugglers, who are themselves refugees, are being held by police. Survivors said they had paid about $100 for safe passage from the Shagarab refugee camp to Khartoum. Some 130,000 refugees live in eastern Sudan, mainly from Eritrea, Ethiopia and Somalia, according to the U.N. agency.


Ferry victims’ kin fight for justice

DAKAR | Six years after Senegal’s Joola ferry capsize, Africa’s worst maritime disaster, the families of victims say they are still awaiting justice and hope that French pressure will now see heads roll.

On Friday, the families remember the dead - 1,863 according to official figures, but at least 1,953 according to others - in the Senegalese capital amid a growing row between Dakar and former colonial ruler France over the tragedy.

In 2003, a year after the sinking, Senegal ruled out further prosecutions despite the fact that the ferry carried up to three times the number of passengers it was licensed to and was manned by navy officials.

Two weeks ago a French judge in the Paris suburb of Evry issued international arrest warrants against nine Senegalese officials. Under French law, an investigative judge can open a probe and issue arrest warrants in cases where French nationals are victims overseas.

The Joola capsized in stormy seas off Gambia on the night of Sept. 26, 2002, while sailing between the southern Senegalese territory of Casamance and the capital Dakar.

Licensed to carry 550 people, it had 1,927 passengers on board, including 22 French nationals.

Only 64 people survived the accident, which claimed more lives than the sinking of the Titanic in 1912 that claimed 1,563 lives.

According to French experts, apart from the stormy conditions at sea with high waves and harsh winds, overloading was a major cause for the disaster.


U.S. grants aid of $151 million

ADDIS ABABA | The United States has given Ethiopia $151 million to boost its health and education services, the U.S. Embassy said Tuesday.

The agreement was signed Monday by USAID representative Glenn Anders, U.S. Ambassador to Ethiopia Donald Yamamoto and Ethiopia’s Finance Minister Mekonnen Manyazewal.

The grant will also finance economic growth and democracy and governance programs.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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