September 12th, 2007 01:48 EST
Fierce clashes in South Darfur
Grave reports have emerged of fresh fighting between Sudanese Government armed forces and Darfur rebel groups in the south of the war-torn region, the United Nations Mission in Sudan (UNMIS) reported today, raising alarm about the timing of attacks, which came on the heels of Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s visit to the country.
UNMIS said the African Union Mission in Sudan (AMIS) – which is operating in Darfur until the hybrid UN-AU peacekeeping force (UNAMID) takes over next year – reported that fierce fighting took place yesterday afternoon in the town of Haskanita in South Darfur state.
The reports indicate that the violence between Government forces and rebels occurred close to the AMIS military group site in Haskanita, forcing mission personnel there to take cover and local civilians to seek refuge around the camp.
A statement from AMIS noted that while the details of the clashes have not yet been properly investigated, there is clear evidence of heavy fighting – including the use of helicopter gunships.
“Given the critical stage of the peace process, the forthcoming negotiations in Libya and the commitments made by all parties to uphold the ceasefire, the nature, scale and timing of these attacks is astonishing,” according to the statement.
“It is particularly alarming that these developments should take place so soon after the visit of the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and the positive atmosphere which it created.”
AMIS is mandated to monitor the ceasefire between the Government and the rebels in Darfur, where more than 200,000 people have been killed and at least 2.2 million others forced to flee their homes since 2003.
UNMIS also reported that four armed men shot and wounded an internally displaced persons (IDP) in the Kalma camp in South Darfur yesterday, while a boy from the Fur tribe was reportedly beaten by several armed men in the same camp.
On Sunday, a group of 20 women from an IDP camp in Zalingei in West Darfur were briefly detained by an Arab militia while fetching fire wood, but they were later released.