Corpses betray the truth of Darfur as deadline passes

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The Independent Online

The men of Darfur have gone. After the Janjaweed Arab militias and Sudanese military descended on these villages, teenagers, youths and grown men vanished. Many joined the rebel groups to avenge their dead relatives but others were murdered and their bodies left to carrion-eaters.

The men of Darfur have gone. After the Janjaweed Arab militias and Sudanese military descended on these villages, teenagers, youths and grown men vanished. Many joined the rebel groups to avenge their dead relatives but others were murdered and their bodies left to carrion-eaters.

Some of the remains have been buried by families who crept under cover of night to spread soil over their husbands and brothers, but high in the hills of north-west Darfur, there is a tangle of skeletons and part-decomposed bodies, a testimony to the killings.

Jan Pronk, the UN special representative for Sudan, briefed the Secretary General Kofi Annan yesterday on Darfur for a Security Council meeting on Thursday that will decide whether the Sudanese government has kept its promise to end hostilities. More than a million Darfuris have fled their homes for fear of attack by the Janjaweed Arab militia, which was mobilised by the Sudanese government to help crush rebel forces of the Sudanese Liberation Army.

Inside Darfur, no one believes the war is over. Human Rights Watch say the Sudanese government is still permitting active Janjaweed camps in western Sudan. Then there is the hard evidence: the bodies.

There were 12. They lie on two dry river-beds, with broken ribs, and bullet holes in their skulls. One wore faded blue trousers, with the word "Titan" sewn on the label. At least two bodies were those of children.

Ahmed Yusuf Ibrahim, sitting amid the ruins of his village, said: "I saw the horses and cars coming, so I began running to the mountains with some women and children. I was at the top and I looked down and saw my brother being led away. He had his hands tied behind his back and his eyes were covered.

"For a long time, I did not know where he had gone. Then a month later a shepherd found bodies at the summit of the mountain. I went to look and I saw my brother there. We are three brothers and we always used to buy the same clothes, so when I saw his jallabiya I knew it was him."

This corner of Darfur, four hours' drive from the western border of Sudan, was laid waste in an attack by government forces and the Janjaweed in April. Survivors tell the now-familiar story, how they heard military airplanes circling for hours before the bombings. And as they ran, the Janjaweed arrived on horseback to torch the houses and shoot civilians.

Many people were led away to be shot in distant areas. Hundreds of men have vanished, and many survivors do not know if their families are alive or dead.

In one village, three women walked for six days to return home from a refugee camp in Chad, so they could plant crops and seek news of the disappeared. "None of the women who came with me have husbands any more," said Amena. "My husband was at the river watering our animals when the Janjaweed came. I took my children and ran. I don't know where my husband is. I want to search for him but I don't know where to look."

The government of Sudan has justified similar attacks by saying the men arrested were suspected of being SLA rebels, but the people of the villages say they had nothing to do with them.

Mr Ibrahim said: "Before the attack, we did not know anything about the SLA but after my brother died, I went to find them. Now it is the only thing I have to live for. I wanted to bury my brother like Muslims are supposed to do, but the SLA commander said to leave it to let people come and see what happened. I know my brother died innocent, with no sins, so I am not worried about what will happen to his soul."

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