SUDAN: Pro-government militias massacre 81 in Western Darfur, says rights group
This elderly woman suffered burns in an earlier attack on Gosmino, Western Darfur
NAIROBI, 18 February 2004 (IRIN) - A US-based human rights group has claimed that 81 civilians in the war-affected Western Darfur region Sudan were last week massacred by Arab militia groups aligned with the Sudanese government.
The Center for the Prevention of Genocide (CPG) said it had received confirmation that the massacres were perpetrated by the Janjawid militia, during an attack on the town of Shatatya and its surrounding villages on 10 February.
Sources also reported the abduction of 32 teenaged girls by government forces, in Mugjar, a town currently inundated by thousands of internally displaced persons in the Wadi Salih area (near the border with Chad), CPG said in a statement. "Despite government attempts to conceal the brutal nature of the recurrent violence, sources in Darfur continue to come forward with reports of abuse," it said.
However, the Sudanese ambassador to Uganda has denied any government involvement in the massacres. The ambassador, Siraj al-Din Hamid, told IRIN from the Ugandan capital, Kampala, that sanctioning militia attacks on civilians contradicted his government's overall objective of bringing stability to the region. "The government cannot initiate attacks against people," Siraj al-Din said. "These things are just ignited. It could be about cattle or land, but it has nothing to do with the government or the rebel groups," he added.
Violence in Darfur, a region shared by Arab and indigenous African populations, has in recent weeks resulted in the internal displacement of up to 800,000, while about 130,000 people have fled to neighbouring Chad, according to humanitarian agencies.
The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has begun airlifting food aid to thousand of Sudanese refugees in Chad. It said it planned to send more than 256 t of aid supplies to 110,000 Sudanese refugees currently scattered along the Chadian side of a 600-km strip of the remote border.
The airlift, it said, coincided with an ongoing emergency relocation of tens of thousands of refugees on the insecure border to safer camps further inland in Chad before the start of the rainy season in May. Nearly 4,000 refugees had been transported so far to two new camps, UNHCR said in a statement. "Obviously, we’ve still got a long way to go in this race against time and the elements," Ron Redmond, a spokesman for UNHCR, said.
The UN World Food Programme (WFP), meanwhile, is airlifting food aid into Darfur to help "alleviate the suffering" of thousands of people displaced by the conflict there. About 500 t of sorghum was airlifted to Al-Fashir, the regional capital of Northern Darfur, as an interim measure to ensure that food reaches people who have been cut off since November.
However, WFP expressed concern over insecurity, which, it said, was continuing to prevent it from transporting food overland from its main warehouses to key supply points in Al-Fashir and Nyala, the regional capital of Southern Darfur.
"We are not planning a massive airlift to the region, since we hope that road transportation will be re-established very soon," Bradley Guerrant, the WFP’s deputy country director for Sudan, said in a statement.
Getachew Diriba, the WFP's senior programme officer for Sudan, who accompanied an EU delegation to Junaynah in Western Darfur, said the situation there was "very, very alarming". "All they have to protect them is the sky of Junaynah. No matter how seriously wounded they are, there is hardly anything to alleviate their suffering," Getachew asserted.