Home | News    Monday 11 December 2006

Darfur civilians burned alive after horsemen attack aid truck

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Dec 11, 2006 (LONDON) — Gunmen on horseback attacked a truck carrying medicine and aid in Sudan’s war-ravaged Darfur region and killed around 30 civilians, some of whom were burned alive, the United Nations said yesterday.

The African Union had earlier put the death toll at 22 and said 10 others were wounded on Saturday when gunmen attacked the vehicle near Sirba, 30 miles north of El Geneina, the capital of West Darfur state and close to the Sudan-Chad border.

"The gunmen were riding on horseback. The exact number of civilian casu alties is not yet established but it is estimated that around 30 people were killed," said Radhia Achouri, a UN spokeswoman in Sudan.

"Some people were shot, others were burned to death," she said. The vehicle was carrying medicine and relief items and transporting people, she added.

The violence highlights the worsening situation in Darfur where experts say around 200,000 people have been killed since the conflict flared up in 2003 when rebels took up arms against the government, accusing it of neglect.

A peace deal agreed in May between the government and one faction of the Sudan Liberation Movement (SLM) has failed to stop Darfur bloodshed.

Analysts say all sides of the conflict - rebels, government forces and Arab militias allied to the government - are engaged in fresh fighting. Some aid workers say the humanitarian situation has not been as bad since 2003.

Ms Achouri did not identify precisely who was behind Saturday’s attack. Militias locally known as the Janjaweed, which the Khartoum government is accused of backing, are known to carry out some attacks in the region riding camels and horses. Last month suspected Janjaweed attacked Sirba, killing up to 30 villagers and wounding 40.

Khartoum denies supporting the Janjaweed, a term loosely derived from the Arabic for "devils on horseback".

Mohamed al-Tulib, the acting governor of West Darfur, said Saturday’s attack was carried out by the rebel group the National Redemption Front (NRF), the official Sudanese news agency quoted him as saying.

There was no comment from the NRF, a coalition of rebel groups that rejected the May peace deal.

The African Union, which had dispatched an investigation unit to Sirba, said its team was able to leave the area after angry villagers initially prevented them from departing. "We appeal to everybody to know that the AU is in Darfur to help the people and restore stability and reach peace. We are not in Darfur to be part of the conflict," said the AU spokesman in Sudan, Noureddine Mezni.

Andrew Natsios, the US envoy for Sudan, arrived in Khartoum on Saturday to discuss Darfur with the government. He is scheduled to visit the region later this week.

The UN’s estimate of those killed in the attack on Saturday in which some people were shot and some burned alive

(The Guardian)

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