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Darfur War - 2003

Over five dozen people from the Fur tribe were arrested and detained during July and August 2002, from the towns of Zalingei, Tour, and Nyartati and Golou in Jebel Mara province. None of the 66 people had been formally charged, but the Government stated that those arrested were suspected of working to form an opposition group calling themselves the 'Darfur Liberation Front'. Darfur had experienced a marked increase in levels of tribal conflict, with at least 65 people, all from the African tribes, confirmed killed in attacks by Arab militia since May 2002. Hundreds of houses had also been destroyed and thousands of livestock lost.

By early 2003 exiled Sudanese rights activists claimed that the conflict in Western Sudan's Darfur region was developing from ethnic cleansing into genocide. The Khartoum government allegedly supports Arab militias in their massacre of Fur and other indigenous people termed "slaves". Khartoum however claims its neutrality and says it was fighting "banditry" in Darfur.

The United Nations estimated that up to 600,000 people had been displaced by the conflict since February 2003. Hundreds of thousands of people had been forced to flee their homes since fighting broke out in April 2003 between the rebel Justice and Equality Movement, and government forces. The situation of women and children was particularly desperate.

The Sudan Liberation Movement/Army (SLM/A) continued to mount attacks in Darfur in April 2003. In response, the Government of Sudan [GOS] stepped up its military presence in Darfur, and according to some reports, had begun attacking local villages in an effort to stamp out the insurgency. Sudan's border area with Chad was declared a military zone by the GOS following a meeting between Sudanese President Omar el-Bashir and Chadian President Idriss Deby. On 25 April 2003, the SLM/A reported that it had seized the airport and Al-Fasher, the capital of Northern Darfur state, and destroyed GOS helicopters and equipment. The GOS refuted this claim, stating that Al-Fashar remained under government control. The authorities in the capital of Southern Darfur, Nyala, imposed a curfew on the city following the clashes in Al-Fashar.

Reports indicate more than 600,000 civilians had been internally displaced, 75,000 refugees began fleeing to Chad in April 2003, and as many as 3,000 unarmed civilians had been killed in the region's spiralling conflict. Many more had been prevented from planting or harvesting crops. Humanitarian access continues to be inhibited by ongoing insecurity and the Government of Sudan's denial of travel permits to humanitarian workers.

In November 2003 The United Nations called for nearly 23-million dollars to help people suffering in this little-known war in western Sudan.




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