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Dafur: Bandits Attack Civilians and Aid Workers

Sudan: UN Concerned By Bandit Attacks Against Civilians, Aid Workers In Darfur

Armed bandits are attacking civilians and humanitarian workers in the violence-wracked Darfur region of western Sudan, a United Nations spokesperson said today.

Briefing reporters on the situation in Darfur, spokesperson Marie Okabe said UN officials in Sudan are concerned about recent attacks by highwaymen, including some raids on humanitarian convoys.

UN agencies and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) are operating in Darfur and neighbouring Chad to bring relief to at least two million people affected by the year-long conflict between the Sudanese Government, allied militias and two rebel groups. UN officials have described the situation as the world's worst humanitarian crisis.

Ms. Okabe said fighting is continuing in south Darfur between the rebel Sudan Liberation Army (SLA) and the Janjaweed militias, which are supported by Khartoum.

Last Saturday the Sudanese Government and the UN issued a communiqué in which the Government promised to disarm the militias, bring the perpetrators of human rights abuses to justice and remove any obstacles to humanitarian access.

The communiqué followed talks between Secretary-General Kofi Annan and President Omer Al-Bashir and Mr. Annan's visit to camps for internally displaced people (IDPs) in Darfur and for refugees in Chad.

Speaking to journalists yesterday during his tour of Africa, Mr. Annan said Khartoum knows that if it does not meet its pledges then the Security Council is ready to take action against it. He said the Government also has several clear incentives to do as it has promised.

Sudan "would be flooded with investments, debt relief [and] economic assistance" if it reaches a peace deal in Darfur, the Secretary-General said, but would face "additional measures" from the Council if it did not take credible steps to disarm the Janjaweed and end the fighting.

"They are thinking in terms of peace dividends, and yet if they do not settle Darfur and make peace comprehensively, as I told them, [then] nobody invests in bad neighbourhoods. Sudan would be a bad neighbourhood and investors will not come in and you will not get the assistance you need."

Ms. Okabe said Khartoum has pledged to send 6,000 police officers to Darfur to quell the violence. Local UN officials said they would monitor the deployment.

She said aid workers also remain concerned about sanitation levels in many of the 137 camps for IDPs. At Mornei in west Darfur, where 60,000 IDPs live, the Sudanese Government prevented an aid agency with sanitation experience from setting up operations.

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