Dozens killed as Sudanese soldiers attack Darfur camp

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The Independent Online

Dozens of people were killed and more than a hundred injured during an attack by Sudanese armed forces on a camp for displaced people in Darfur.

Witnesses at Kalma refugee camp, which is home to more than 90,000 people, mainly women and children, said hundreds of soldiers and security officers entered the camp early yesterday morning and opened fire. Unconfirmed reports suggested 27 people were killed. At least 50 of the injured were treated for gunshot wounds.

Tens of thousands of people fled the camp and many of their homes were on fire.

United Nations police officers and soldiers from the African Union force in Darfur (Unamid) are supposed to patrol Darfur’s camps 24 hours a day. But due to a lack of resources and personnel, they only patrol between 8am and midnight.

A Unamid patrol was dispatched after the first reports of fighting, but witnesses claimed that its route was blocked by government security officials. By early afternoon a patrol had got through, but government forces were still out in force outside the camp.

The UN’s humanitarian coordinator, Ameerah Haq, called for the establishment of a “humanitarian corridor” from Kalma camp to Nyala to allow the injured to be evacuated.

Aid workers said the attack was not an isolated incident. For more than a year the Sudanese government has been trying to close the camp down. Rebel groups have strong support inside Kalma and many of the men in the camp are armed.

Over the past few months the government has repeatedly squeezed aid operations, sometimes refusing to allow fuel, food and water to be delivered.

This is the first confirmed military operation since Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir was last month accused of genocide by the International Criminal Court’s prosecutor. Pretrial judges are reviewing the evidence against him. A decision on whether he will be charged is not expected for months.