BEIRUT

Middle East

Sudan peacekeepers to 'assess' Darfur violence: UN

A child receives a meningitis vaccination at the community center in the Al Neem camp for Internally Displaced People in El Daein, East Darfur October 8, 2012. (REUTERS/UNAMID/Albert Gonzalez Farran/Handout)

KHARTOUM: Peacekeepers in Sudan's troubled Darfur region on Sunday said they plan further "assessment" of reported violence in Hashaba, where the United States says 70 civilians died.

The African Union-United Nations Mission in Darfur (UNAMID) sent an initial patrol to Hashaba North on October 3, UNAMID said in a statement to AFP.

"UNAMID is planning to undertake a second mission in the next few days for further assessment of the reported incident in and around Hashaba North," the written statement said.

Local sources in the area, near Kutum in North Darfur state, confirmed to AFP that peacekeepers had been there and that they had seen some dead bodies.

More than 70 civilians were killed in Hashaba between September 25 and 27 in fighting and aerial bombardments between rebels and Sudanese government forces, US State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said on October 4.

"Something very bad happened" in Hashaba and because of that, access was restricted, a Sudan analyst said.

The analyst, asking for anonymity, said it is unclear what triggered the incident in which civilians were "caught in the middle."

The Kutum region, northwest of the North Darfur capital El Fasher, has been the scene of unrest since early August when Abdelrahman Mohammed Eissa, the head of Al-Waha district, was shot dead during a carjacking attempt.

That attack sparked retaliatory violence that left several people dead and forced 25,000 to flee from a camp for those already displaced by fighting in Darfur's nine-year-old conflict.

In early September, authorities imposed a curfew and placed two districts under military rule after another attack targeting the top official in Kutum town.

Farther west, four Nigerian peacekeepers were killed on October 2 in an ambush near El-Geneina, in West Darfur state.

The killing of the UNAMID troops and the Hashaba incident prompted Washington to voice concern that security is worsening.

Much of the unrest in Darfur now is linked to pro-government Arab groups, which fight among themselves as well as against the regime, because "they feel protected," humanitarian sources have previously said.

Ethnic minority rebels rose against the Arab-dominated Khartoum government in 2003. In response, the government unleashed state-backed Janjaweed Arab militia in a conflict that shocked the world and led to allegations of genocide.

The UN estimates that at least 300,000 people died but the government puts the toll at 10,000.

Although violence is down from its peak, clashes between rebels and government troops, banditry such as carjackings, and inter-ethnic fighting continues.

 

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