UN: Sudan militias have driven 95,000 refugees into Chad

Monday, January 12, 2004

Sudanese government militias are creating a refugee crisis after destroying villages in the Darfour region as part of the regime's drive against rebel forces.

The United Nations said it has received testimony from Sudanese refugees of details of Khartoum's military offensive against the Sudan Liberation Movement/Army in Darfour. The refugees reported that government militias have destroyed numerous villages, which has driven tens of thousands of people from Darfour to neighboring Chad.

"Newly arrived Sudanese refugees in eastern Chad report that marauding militia groups are continuing to burn, loot and empty entire villages in the Darfur region of western Sudan in a conflict that has sent an estimated 95,000 people fleeing across the border since early last year," a UN statement said on Friday.

On Friday, the SLM/A reported to have downed a Sudanese military helicopter in the Abu Qamra region of northern Darfour, Middle East Newsline reported. The group did not identify the model of the aircraft.

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees also reported that hundreds of thousands of others were believed to have been displaced inside Darfur. UN agencies said they have provided emergency aid in Chad.

Sudan's military was reported to have made significant gains in Darfour over the last two weeks. On Wednesday, Sudanese attack helicopters attacked the Abu Qamra region and killed SLM/A commander Abdullah Abkar Othman. Two days later, the rebel group said it was prepared to resume ceasefire negotiations with Khartoum under international auspices.

The military said Othman, another senior commander and 130 rebels were killed in a two-day battle last week to dislodge the SLM/A from Abu Qamra. Sudanese government forces were also said to have captured six rebel vehicles loaded with weapons and explosives.

Sudan's military, which accused Eritrea and Israel of helping the Darfour rebels, has launched a widescale attack in several areas of northern and southern Darfour. The military was said to have employed Soviet-origin helicopters and fixed-wing Antonov air transports in attacks on rebel positions.

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