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'New bombings endangering civilians in Darfur'

Latest update : 2008-02-24

UN officials said that new bombings were endangering thousands of civilians in Darfur on Sunday as US and Chinese envoys sought to bolster peace efforts ahead of the conflict's five-year anniversary.

KHARTOUM, Feb 24 (Reuters) - Sudan has reportedly bombed a
rebel-held area in Darfur, despite assurances from Khartoum that
civilians sheltering in the area near the Chad border would be
allowed safe passage, the United Nations said on Sunday.

"UNAMID has received reports this morning of aerial bombings
in the Jabel Moun area in western Darfur," a U.N. statement
said. "We are gravely concerned for the safety of thousands of
civilians in this area."

Sudan launched an offensive on Feb. 8 to retake parts of
West Darfur state from rebels. Residents said at least 114
people were killed, but the army said many of those were rebels
in civilian clothing.

Thousands of people fled the fighting. Some crossed the
border into neighbouring Chad but many sought refuge in the
nearby Jabel Moun area, which has been the scene of sporadic
battles between army and rebels and has been a no-go area for
the U.N.-AU peacekeeping mission known as UNAMID.

U.N. officials estimate some 20,000 people were in Jabel

Now the United Nations said there were reports of bombing in
Jabel Moun, despite assurances from Khartoum on Sunday morning
that civilians would be allowed to leave the area. The
U.N-African Union force UNAMID was seeking similar assurances
from the rebels.

"The risks at this stage to civilians are unacceptably high.
The solution for Darfur's problems can never be a military one."
the statement said.

"The eyes of the world are now on Darfur, and the concerns
of all of us will be the innocent children, women and men who
are caught up in this fighting."



International experts estimate some 200,000 people have died
and 2.5 million have been driven from their homes in five years
of fighting in Darfur. Khartoum says the Western media has
exaggerated the conflict and puts the death toll at 9,000.

Mostly non-Arab Darfur rebels, who took up arms against the
government in 2003 charging neglect, have requested European and
U.S. troops in Darfur.

But powerful presidential assistant Nafie Ali Nafie on
Sunday rejected any notion of accepting non-African troops in
UNAMID until all African soldiers have deployed to Darfur.

UNAMID, which will be the world's largest U.N.-funded
peacekeeping operation, received Khartoum's blessing after
months of talks, threats and negotiations.

It was delayed by impossible deployment conditions initially
set by Sudan and a lack of air support from donor nations.

At full strength, the mission should consist of 26,000
troops and police.

But two months since it took over, it has only 9,000
personnel -- just 2,000 more than the previous African Union
force which it absorbed -- and is struggling to live up to
Darfuris' high expectations that it will protect them better
than its AU predecessor.

Scandinavian units were refused entry by Khartoum and a Thai
battalion is ready but still waiting for permission to deploy.

"What we ask now is that any talk of non-African troops
stops until after the African troops have all been deployed on
the ground," Nafie told reporters in Khartoum.

"Any attempt to talk about Khartoum's obstruction to the
hybrid force or any talk about a lack of ability of African
troops to accomplish the task of UNAMID is an attempt to create
another crisis between Sudan and the international community,"
he added.

He declined to say why Khartoum did not want non-African
troops, but Sudanese officials have said Africa should be able
to resolve its own problems and expressed suspicions about the
intentions of former African colonialists sending troops into

Date created : 2008-02-24