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Attacks On Humanitarian Convoys In Darfur Reported

Sudan: UN Hears Reports Of Attacks On Humanitarian Convoys In Darfur

Military personnel, uniformed men and "unidentified persons on camel" have stopped and attacked clearly marked convoys of humanitarian workers in the west and north of Sudan's violence-wracked Darfur region, a United Nations spokesperson said today.

Briefing reporters at UN Headquarters in New York, spokesperson Marie Okabe said the Sudanese Government and the rebel Sudan Liberation Army (SLA) have both increased the number of checkpoints on strategic routes in Darfur, slowing the flow of humanitarian relief to the estimated two million people affected by the persistent insecurity.

In Darfur's south, civilians continue to be displaced by tribal fighting and by attacks from the Janjaweed militias, bands of Government-allied Arab fighters who have targeted the region's black African population.

The reports follow an agreement between the Sudanese Government and Secretary-General Kofi Annan, who visited the region last week, for Khartoum to disarm the Janjaweed and remove all obstacles to relief efforts.

UN agencies and non-government organizations (NGOs) are operating in Darfur to help diminish what senior UN officials have labelled as the world's worst humanitarian crisis.

UN High Commissioner for Refugees staff in Nyala, the provincial capital of South Darfur State, say more than 100 people have arrived at a nearby camp for internally displaced people (IDPs) in the last few days, telling harrowing stories of attacks by the Janjaweed and Sudanese Government forces.

They say their villages were first hit by bombs from airplanes and helicopter gunships, before armed men arrived in trucks and on horses and camels and killed their relatives and neighbours, raped women, stole their livestock and possessions and burned their homes.

UNHCR spokesperson Jennifer Pagonis, briefing reporters in Geneva, also said the agency was concerned that some IDPs were beaten to force them to leave a makeshift camp which the Sudanese police and soldiers was illegally occupying private land near Nyala. About 1,500 people were moved from the camp.

More than a million people have been uprooted and as many as 170,000 others live as refugees in neighbouring Chad because of the conflict in Darfur. The Sudanese Government, rebel groups including the SLA and the Janjaweed have been clashing since early last year.

In Chad, Ms. Pagonis said, the annual rainy season is making it very difficult for the agency to reach the tens of thousands of Sudanese refugees who remain near the border between the two countries.

Many roads have become impassable as the rains have turned otherwise dry river beds into flooded water-courses. More than 118,000 refugees have been transferred to safe camps away from the border and the reach of the Janjaweed, but many others remain stranded.

Some towns and villages in eastern Chad are now only accessible by plane, and UN agencies and NGOs have pre-positioned food supplies to some areas to last until November, when the rainy season is expected to finish.

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