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'Horrifying attacks' reported in Sudan
(Agencies)
Updated: 2004-02-19 09:50

Amnesty International said Wednesday it had received reports of ¡°horrifying attacks¡± against civilians in western Sudan by government forces fighting a yearlong rebellion.

The London-based human rights group said it had information that government-backed militias attacked five villages in southern Darfur region on Feb. 11, killing between 68 and 80 civilians.

On Feb. 10-12, government aircraft also bombed 11 towns and villages in west Darfur, while pro-government militia killed people fleeing their homes, including an Islamic preacher, Amnesty said in a statement.

Government soldiers also allegedly abducted 30 girls in an attack in west Darfur last week, Amnesty said.

Amnesty said it also had reports that anti-government forces were attacking and robbing civilians, but a rebel spokesman denied the allegation.

It was not immediately possible to get comment from Sudanese government officials.

¡°Amnesty International continues to receive details of horrifying attacks against civilians in villages by government warplanes, soldiers and government-aligned militia,¡± the statement said.

Sudanese President Omar el-Bashir ¡°stated last week that humanitarian access to Darfur, western Sudan, is now authorized and will improve. But our reports from Darfur show that respect for international humanitarian law ... is not observed,¡± Amnesty added.

Government accused of targeting civilians

Aid agencies say more than 600,000 people have fled their homes and hundreds have been killed by the fighting in Darfur, a poor region that borders Chad. Rebels and refugees have accused the government of deliberately targeting civilians. The government has denied the allegations.

On the rebel side, Amnesty said both the Sudan Liberation Army and the Justice and Equality Movement were involved in attacks on civilians.

Zakaria Mohammed Ali, secretary-general of the Justice and Equality Movement, dismissed the allegations, charging that government-backed militia were attacking villages and claiming to be members of the rebel Sudan Liberation Army.

Ali, who spoke to The Associated Press by telephone from Germany, accused the government of continuing to bomb villages in Darfur and targeting civilians.

The insurgency has intensified as peace talks between the government and southern rebels fighting a 21-year-long civil war have inched toward their conclusion. Those talks, staged in Kenya, resumed Tuesday but do not include the Darfur rebels.

 
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