- Associated Press - Friday, January 23, 2015

UNITED NATIONS (AP) - A new U.N. report says more than 3,000 villages were destroyed in Darfur during targeted attacks on civilians early last year as hundreds of thousands of people fled a spike in violence. The report says government or government-aligned forces are mostly to blame.

The panel of experts report circulated Friday also found “routine and systematic” violations of an arms embargo by Sudan’s government in the chaotic western region. Violations included the presence of ammunition manufactured in Khartoum after the embargo was imposed - the first such finding since the panel of experts was created a decade ago.

The U.N. presence in Sudan is increasingly fragile. President Omar al-Bashir recently ordered the expulsion of top U.N. officials and called for an exit strategy for the joint U.N.-African Union peacekeeping force in Darfur, which has been criticized for its effectiveness.

Fighting in Darfur erupted in 2003, when rebels took up arms against the government, accusing it of discrimination and neglect. Fighting among tribal groups and a rise in violent crime have complicated security efforts.

More than 400,000 people were displaced last year through the end of October, which the report called a significant increase.

“It is highly probable that civilian communities were targeted as a result of their actual or perceived affiliations with armed opposition groups,” the report said. It added that such attacks were carried out with impunity.

The U.N. Security Council a decade ago imposed an arms embargo for the Darfur region, but Sudan’s government has argued that does not apply to its security forces.

The new report for the first time found evidence in Darfur of batches of small arms ammunition that had been manufactured in Khartoum since the embargo was imposed. The most recent was from 2013.

The panel of experts also found evidence of Chinese-manufactured small arms ammunition, also made since the embargo, but the panel said it did not yet know who had brought the ammunition batches into Darfur.

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