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24 killed after Sudan Govt 'bombed' Darfur

world Updated: Oct 11, 2007 04:27 IST
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Some 24 people were reported to have been killed in a new round of bombing in Sudan's embattled Darfur region, an attack squarely blamed on the government by the head of the African Union (AU) force in the region.

The attack on Muhajirya on Monday was the latest in a spate of violence in the embattled region ahead of peace talks in Libya set for October 27. "The town was bombed and only the Sudanese government forces have aircraft," General Martin Luther Agwai, head of the 7,000-member AU force in Darfur, said.

The United Nations (UN) said the clashes took place between Minni Minnawi's Sudan Liberation Movement - one of the few factions that signed an earlier peace agreement - and a group of tribal militia.

The attack follows the almost complete burning down of Haskanita town at the weekend, the site of the killing of 10 AU troops in an incursion last week by what is believed to be a rebel splinter faction.

Meanwhile, the head of UN peacekeeping operations Jean Marie Guehenno said in New York on Monday that the much-anticipated hybrid UN-AU mission to Darfur lacked air and ground transport capacities.

US State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said getting the UN force in as soon as possible was essential for ending the violence and moving toward peaceful resolution.

"Get the forces in there, address the humanitarian situation and, ultimately, get a political solution to the situation in Darfur," McCormack said. "That is how you're going to really get to the root causes of the violence."

The latest attacks on the AU force, which has been charged with being incapable of protecting Darfuris in the region the size of France, have stirred fears that talks in Libya may not go ahead, with some rebel leaders vowing not to attend.

Darfur was thrown into conflict in 2003, when rebels took up arms against the Islamist government in Khartoum, demanding development for the impoverished province.

Khartoum is charged with arming militias known as the janjaweed who have battled the rebels, causing the deaths of more than 200,000 people and uprooting some 2.5 million.

The May 2006 Darfur Peace Agreement, which spurred a breakaway of rebel factions that chose not to sign the accord, has not stemmed the violence.