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Aid Agencies Pull Out of Western Darfur

23 April 2007

Violence in Sudan's embattled Darfur region has dealt another blow to the world's largest aid operation. Oxfam and other non-governmental organizations announced Monday, they will suspend all but essential humanitarian activity in Um Dukhun, western Darfur, following a series of attacks by unknown armed men on aid workers. Noel King has this report from Khartoum.

The suspension of activity will affect 100,000 vulnerable people in western Darfur - a volatile region that borders Chad and the Central African Republic.

Violence from Darfur has spilled over into those neighboring nations, displacing tens of thousands of people.

At least four million people in the region are dependent upon humanitarian aid.

Oxfam Country Program Director Caroline Nursey explained to VOA why operations had to be suspended.

"There's been a series of problems affecting NGOs. The most recent one was on Sunday of last week, when an Oxfam vehicle was carjacked, right in the middle of a camp in town," she said. "And, there have been a number of other incidents, over the last few weeks. We need local authorities and the people of Um Dukhun to take this seriously."

Nursey told VOA it is unclear who the attackers are.

Late last year, a series of attacks on humanitarian compounds forced the largest-scale withdrawal of aid workers in Darfur since 2004.

Since then, humanitarian agencies have said they fear aid workers are increasingly viewed as targets.

It is often unclear who is responsible for attacks, as Darfur descends further into anarchy.

Arab militias - known as Janjaweed - Darfuri rebels, Sudan government troops and unaffiliated bandits are often indistinguishable. International observers say all groups are responsible for violent attacks on aid workers.

The Darfur conflict has entered its fifth year.

Sudan is charged with arming the Janjaweed, to crush a rebellion by members of African tribes.

An estimated 200,000 people have died.

The international community has pushed for United Nations peacekeepers to enter Darfur to support the struggling African Union mission currently on the ground.

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