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Brutal Attacks Still Occurring in Darfur, United Nations Reports

12 May 2005

African Union effort must be reinforced, international body says

By Judy Aita
Washington File United Nations Correspondent

United Nations -- Because Jingaweit militia continue to attack civilians in Darfur and thus perpetuate a lack of security in the region, bringing short-term stability to the area will require considerable strengthening of the African Union (AU) mission in Sudan, a senior U.N. official said May 12.

Assistant Secretary-General Hedi Annabi told the U.N. Security Council that organized violence continues and that attacks on civilians, rape, kidnapping and banditry actually increased in April.  Although there was no evidence of direct involvement of regular government forces, there were widespread reports of abuse by the pro-government Jingaweit militia.

Upwards of 10,000 civilians -- the entire population of  the Khor Abeche village in southern Darfur -- were displaced during a brutal attack, and a number of homes were burned and looted, Annabi told the council.

AU and U.N. personnel have identified the commander of the militia forces that struck the village, he said.

In areas where AU troops are deployed the situation has improved, he added.  Currently, 2,409 AU troops and 244 police are in the province.  The Security Council authorized the expansion of the force to more than 6,100 military and 1,560 civilian police, to be in place by the end of September.  Nevertheless, Annabi said, in September another increase might be needed.

A worrying trend in light of the role played by the humanitarian community in sustaining the 2.45 million conflict-affected civilians in Darfur is a series of attacks by the SLA (Sudan Liberation Army) and JEM (Justice and Equality Movement) rebel movements on humanitarian organizations' vehicles, in one case gravely injuring a relief worker, Annabi said.

Staff members of humanitarian organizations were also subjected to increased harassment by local authorities, particularly in south Darfur, he said.

The fact that there has been no tangible progress in the peace talks is also of serious concern, Annabi said.

Even though the AU is working toward reconvening the talks the week of May 16, he said, "it is not yet clear whether the parties are committed to meaningful negotiations."

In a formal presidential statement read during the open meeting, the Security Council applauded the vital leadership role the African Union is playing and the work of AU troops on the ground.

"The council emphasizes the importance of increased coordinated international assistance for the African Union effort in Darfur and emphasizes the readiness of the U.N. to continue playing a key role," the statement said.  "The council looks forward to continuing contacts in order to facilitate provision of assistance as requested by the African Union."

"The security situation in Darfur is misleading at the moment because attacks on civilians are not occurring on the massive scale encountered in 2004.  But the violence continues, including a brutal attack on the village of Khor Abeche, in southern Darfur," Secretary-General Kofi Annan said in a separate written report to the Security Council released May 9.  "Moreover, if those already displaced were to return home, it is widely assumed that they would suffer renewed attacks.

"There is continuing insecurity around many of the existing camps for internally displaced persons. ...  Further, as those camps grow in size and frustrations rise in the absence of any prospect of early return, there is concern that [rebel] recruitment and insecurity inside many of the camps may increase," the secretary-general said.

Annan emphasized that civilians would continue to suffer as long as the peace talks were stalled.

"Militia groups will continue to steal, rape and kill with impunity," the secretary-general said.  "Rebel movements will continue to fight with whatever capacity they can acquire."

(The Washington File is a product of the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)



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