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Sudan: UN refugee agency voices 'grave concern' at deadly new attack on Darfur camp

29 September 2005 The United Nations refugee agency today voiced "grave concern" over an "unprecedented attack," purportedly by armed Arab men, on a camp for thousands of internally displaced persons (IDPs) in western Sudan's Darfur region that is reported to have left 29 people dead and another 10 seriously wounded.

"As long as this insecurity continues, the international community cannot provide the assistance that is so desperately needed by hundreds of thousands of people," UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) António Guterres said of Darfur, where fighting between the Government, allied militias and rebels has killed tens of thousands of people and displaced more than 2 million since early 2003.

"The Government of Sudan has a responsibility to ensure security for all of its citizens," he added.

The UN Mission in Sudan (UNMIS) also expressed its alarm at the deteriorating security situation, noting that villages had also been attacked.

Secretary-General Kofi Annan's Special Representative Jan Pronk "is deeply concerned about the upsurge of violence in Darfur at a time when every effort is being exerted to speed up a peaceful solution to the conflict in the region in the framework of Abuja talks," UNMIS said in a statement referring to talks in the Nigerian capital.

Initial reports received by UNHCR indicate a group of 250 to 300 armed Arab men on horses and camels attacked Aro Sharow camp yesterday afternoon, sending thousands of residents fleeing into the insecure countryside. The attackers reportedly burned some 80 makeshift shelters, about one-quarter of the camp's households.

Aro Sharow is located 16 kilometres north of the town of Saleah. Between 4,000 and 5,000 internally displaced Sudanese were believed living in the camp, and most reportedly fled into the surrounding countryside. The nearby village of Gosmeina was also reportedly attacked and burned.

Mr. Pronk was meeting today with the Special Representative of the Chairperson of the African Union (AU) Commission for Sudan, Baba Gana Kingibe, to discuss the incident. The AU has several thousand monitors on the ground in Darfur.

UNHCR, which carries out protection monitoring in Darfur, has three offices in the region, with five more planned. But the Jebel Moon area around Aro Sharow has been a no-go zone for the UN for several months due to continuing insecurity.

The attack follows a series of worrisome security incidents throughout Darfur. UNHCR is concerned that the deterioration in security is preventing the provision of vital aid to tens of thousands of IDPs and could prompt them to flee again, possibly to neighbouring Chad, which is already struggling to cope with more than 200,000 refugees from Sudan.

UN Emergency Relief Coordinator Jan Egeland said yesterday that the situation has become dangerous enough that relief agencies have temporarily suspended operations in some areas.

The 15-member Security Council has called on all parties to negotiate in good faith with a view to reaching a peace agreement in Darfur by the end of 2005.

"They emphasized the need for all parties to show calm and restraint and fully to honour the ceasefire, and urged that progress in the talks not suffer, due to violence in Darfur or to divisions within the two sides," Council president for September, Ambassador Lauro Baja of the Philippines, said in a press statement yesterday.


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