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REPUBLIC OF SUDAN: Sudan: Attack on north Darfur imminent

9 Oct 2007
Region: REPUBLIC OF SUDAN
Topic: Regional conflict
Amnesty International today warned that the northern areas of Darfur arecurrently in the crosshairs of the Sudanese armed forces and that furtherdeadly attacks are imminent.
Amnesty International has received reports that Sudan Armed Forces (SAF)are gathering in large numbers in at least six towns in northern Darfur,including Tine, Kornoy, Um Baru, Kutum.

Local people fear further attacks by government or armed opposition forcesbefore peace talks in Tripoli, due to start on 27 October.

"The northern area of North Darfur is under the control of armedopposition groups and it looks as though the Sudan Armed Forces want toattack this area before peace talks scheduled to take place in Libyabefore the end of the month," said Tawanda Hondora, Deputy Director ofAmnesty International's Africa Programme. "We fear that civilians willonce more suffer killing and displacement, with no force able to protectthem."

Yesterday more than 40 civilians were killed and scores injured when theSAF and Janjawid attacked Muhajeria, a town some 130 kilometres west ofHaskanita. The attack was supported by a SAF Antonov, painted white, inthe colours of the United Nations. According to reports, bombing from theAntonov preceded the attack. Such Antonovs have been supplied to the SAFfrom Russia, the last known transfer in September 2006.

Locals attempted to flee the attack, which left a large number ofcasualties from gunshot and shrapnel at the African Union Mission in Sudan(AMIS) base in the town. The western part of the town has reportedly beenlooted.

Sudan is prohibited since 2005 from flying offensive flights over Darfur,and has often been criticised for painting aircraft white, in the coloursof the UN.

"The gathering of forces in the north, the burning of Haskanita last week,and yesterday's attack on Muhajeriya show the vital importance of ensuringthat UNAMID is deployed as soon as possible and has the resourcesavailable to protect civilians," said Tawanda Hondora, AmnestyInternational's Africa Deputy Programme Director.

"There is no time for delays. All signs are there that the people livingin the northern area are at great risk and extra personnel and helicoptersunder military command must be urgently deployed to the area as soon aspossible."

AMIS lacks personnel and material to protect civilians in Darfur. Althoughthere are supposed to be some 7000 peacekeepers, there are actually lessthan 6,000 military personnel spread dangerously thinly over a region thesize of France.

The Sudanese government frequently prevents AMIS movement, insisting thatthe situation is insecure. AMIS forces only have access to charteredhelicopters, whose pilots often refuse to fly troops into areas theyconsider insecure.

"It will be a betrayal of the people of Darfur if, after so much struggleto get a UN force deployed, the international community allows the UNforces to suffer from the same defects that the AU forces have -- Sudangovernment obstruction combined with a lack of international will to givethe right resources," said Hondora.

Background
No one has yet admitted to the 29 September attack on AMIS peacekeepers inHaskanita, which was believed to be by an armed opposition group. The townwas then reoccupied by the SAF shortly after the attack. On 5-6 Octoberthe town of 750 households was completely burnt down. Only the mosque andthe school are said to be still standing; even the borehole and its watertank were reportedly shot and destroyed.

AI Index:AFR 54/061/2007
9 October 2007

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