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UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
05 December 2006

SUDAN: Tension mounts after attack on North Darfur town

KHARTOUM, 5 Dec 2006 (IRIN) - Tension has mounted in El Fasher, the capital of North Darfur State in western Sudan, amid fears that rebels may launch an offensive on government forces being reinforced to defend the town, humanitarian sources said on Tuesday.

Militias attacked the cattle market on Monday and clashed with former rebels of the Sudan Liberation Army (SLA), according to African Union (AU) sources. The AU, which has a large base in El Fasher, said two people died while five SLA fighters were injured. The militias also looted the market.

"The situation is very tense, even worse than yesterday [Monday]," the AU spokesman, Nourredine Mezni, said, adding that AU forces had stopped the fighting. Appealing for a cessation of hostilities in the volatile region, the AU spokesman added: "There is no military solution to this conflict."

The AU mission has 7,000 peacekeepers deployed in Darfur, but has been criticised for being largely ineffective at containing the violence. On Thursday, it renewed the force’s mandate for six months, after Sudan rejected a proposal that would have beefed up the force with 17,000 United Nations troops and 3,000 police officers.

In El Fasher, humanitarian sources said the tension had risen markedly since Monday. "Reports indicate the NRF [National Redemption Front, a rebel coalition] plans to attack El Fasher and the GOSS [government of Sudan] has brought many troops, including many Arab militia, to defend the town," said source.

The security situation in North Darfur has deteriorated rapidly since the signing of the 5 May Darfur Peace Agreement (DPA) between the Sudanese government and the largest of the three main rebel factions, the Sudan Liberation Movement/Army (SLM/A), under the command of Minni Minnawi.

Minnawi, the only rebel leader who has signed the DPA, accused the government of failing to implement the agreement. "There are violations and attacks by Janjawid militias all over Darfur," Saif El Din Salih Haroun, the head of information of Minnawi’s faction, said on Tuesday. "The government is doing nothing. We are going to defend our people in Darfur."

On Monday, Minnawi threatened to pull out of the agreement if fighting continued. He told reporters the attack in El Fasher was a serious breach of the peace deal and threatened his movement's participation in the government.

In a related development, the UN said government forces and an allied militia reportedly burnt down a North Darfur village last weekend. There were reports of civilian casualties and that the villagers’ livestock was looted.

Violence in Darfur has increased due to the fragmentation of rebel groups and escalating fighting between the signatories and rebel groups, under the NRF coalition, that refused to sign the peace deal. At least 200,000 people are estimated to have been killed in Darfur since the conflict began in 2003 between government forces, allied militias and rebels seeking greater autonomy, and more than two million others have been displaced. Twelve humanitarian workers have been killed since May.



This material comes to you via IRIN, a UN humanitarian information unit, but may not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations or its agencies. If you re-print, copy, archive or re-post this item, please retain this credit and disclaimer. Quotations or extracts should include attribution to the original sources. All materials copyright © UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs 2006

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