Sudan's bombing of Darfur 'breaks ceasefire'

By Meera Selva,Africa Correspondent
Friday 28 January 2005 01:00

More than 100 people in the Darfur region of Sudan are believed to have been killed after aircraft bombed a village. The attack brazenly flouted a ceasefire in the area and all but destroyed the settlement.

The bombing apparently took place on Wednesday night and hit the village of Shangil Tobaya, around 40 miles away from El-Fasher in the south of the region. A spokesman for the African Union (AU) confirmed yesterday that the attack, which was almost certainly carried out by Sudanese government forces, was "the most serious attack in recent months". The continuing violence is likely to lead to renewed calls for international intervention in Sudan. On 16 January, the neighbouring village of Hamada was attacked from the air and, according to a UN team, virtually wiped out.

The ceasefire between rebel forces and the Sudanese government has been violated almost 100 times since it was signed last April. Thousands have been made homeless by the conflict and the UN is to make a public announcement on whether genocide has taken place in the region.

Survivors of the recent attacks have fled to the nearby town of Menawashi, although Save The Children, the only aid agency that had worked there, was expelled from the country last year. Other humanitarian organisations are now going to the area to provide food and shelter for refugees.

George Somerwill, a spokes-man for the UN assessment team, said: "It has been confirmed that the village of Hamada was nearly totally destroyed and that up to 105 civilians may have been killed, with the majority of victims being women and children."

He added that rebel groups in the region have also broken the ceasefire and around 30 people were killed when they attacked the village of Malam, south Darfur on 21 January.

Meanwhile, Arab armed militias known as the janjaweed attacked another village and killed three people. The AU has sent monitors to get more information on the attacks and determine whether the Sudanese government played a direct role in the raids.

Aid workers in the camps dotted around Darfur have reported a large influx of people in recent weeks all of whom claim to have been attacked by the janjaweed and Sudanese government aircraft. The Sudanese government has always denied that it has links to the Arab militias but civilians say they coordinate attacks.

The Khartoum government agreed late last year to make Darfur a no-fly zone but insists it is still entitled to use aircraft to protect supply routes and civilians. Last month it said it had launched a military campaign against bandits in Hamada, Juruf and Gemeiza.

Aid agencies have warned that the situation in Darfur has deteriorated in recent months; the two main rebel groups have fragmented and new armed gangs have sprung up in both government and rebel areas.

On Wednesday, the Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA) said three of its Sudanese workers had been kid- napped last month in the rebel-held Labado in south Darfur.

So far, more than 70,000 people have been killed and another 1.5 million displaced by a conflict which the UN has described as the world's worst humanitarian situation.

The Sudanese government has signed a high-profile peace deal with the southern rebels, ending 21 years of civil war, but negotiations over Darfur have had little success. All sides are due to resume peace talks in Nigeria next week. The talks collapsed last month after the rebels accused the government of continuing military operations in south Darfur.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

View comments