UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
SUDAN: Many reported killed during new hostilities in Darfur
NAIROBI, 27 Jan 2005 (IRIN) - Scores of civilians have reportedly been killed and thousands displaced in a series of attacks on villages across the western Sudanese region of Darfur, according to the UN Advance Mission in Sudan (UNAMIS).
A UN assessment team that travelled to Hamada, Juruf and Gemeiza villages in South Darfur state found that renewed hostilities last week had claimed many lives and displaced more than 9,000 people.
"It has been confirmed that the village of Hamada was nearly totally destroyed and that up to 105 civilians may have been killed, with the majority of victims being women and children," UNAMIS Deputy Spokesperson George Somerwill told IRIN on Thursday.
Aid workers and rebels claimed government planes bombed the area on 19 January, but Somerwill was unable to confirm which groups had been involved in the fighting or how the victims were killed. He said an estimated 8,000 people had fled the fighting to nearby Menawashi and 1,250 to Mershing, both in South Darfur state.
In another deadly incident, between 24 and 36 people were reportedly killed and 26 others injured, when a group of rebels attacked the village of Malam, about 100 km north of the South Darfur capital, Nyala, on 21 January, Somerwill said.
He also reported that on 21 January a large group of armed tribesmen attacked the village of Seleia in West Darfur state, killing at least 20 people, abducting two women and stealing cattle.
Following the recent fighting, aid workers reported to UNAMIS that new internally displaced persons (IDPs) continued to arrive in camps in South Darfur, particularly near Kalma.
A considerable influx of IDPs into North Darfur state had also been reported, apparently in response to fighting in the nearby eastern Jebel Marra region.
Meanwhile, the Adventist Development and Relief Agency International (ADRA) said in a press statement released on Tuesday that three of its Sudanese workers had been kidnapped at gunpoint on 16 December in rebel-held Labado, South Darfur, where they were trying to drill wells.
All attempts to locate the three staff members had failed so far.
The special representative of the UN Secretary-General for Sudan, Jan Pronk, strongly condemned the targeting of humanitarian personnel and the attacks on aid workers in a 27 January press release.
The UN envoy called for the "immediate release of the humanitarian workers" and urged "all parties to abide by the principles of international humanitarian law, in particular to ensure the safety of humanitarian workers".
The government occupied Labado during a December campaign and has so far refused to withdraw to its previous lines unless the African Union (AU) takes up positions there to prevent rebels from retaking the area.
Darfur peace talks are due to restart in the Nigerian capital, Abuja, in the first week of February, but there is some doubt as to whether one of the two main rebel groups will attend. The previous round collapsed in December with rebels blaming the military operations in South Darfur.
An AU monitoring mission in Sudan has expressed concern over the fragmentation of Darfur's two main rebel groups. There are now four known armed factions in Darfur, as well as many unidentified groups of armed bandits.
The war in Darfur pits Sudanese government troops and militias allegedly allied to the government against rebels fighting to end what they have called the marginalisation of and discrimination against the region's inhabitants by the state.
The conflict has displaced an estimated 1.45 million people within Sudan and sent another 200,000 fleeing across the border into Chad. The UN has described Darfur as one of the world's worst humanitarian crises.
The result of a UN investigation into whether genocide has been committed in Darfur has been submitted to UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan and will be released next week.
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