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Call for a no-fly zone in Sudan as militia drops bombs on civilians

Perhaps the most pressing human rights catastrophe taking place in the world right now is happening in the Sudan. Similar to the genocide of Rwanda, this warfare-based killings of the Black African Christian population in southern Sudan by the northern Arab/Muslim militia groups is largely ignored by the rest of the world. Here are only the latest notorious details about the conflict.
Tue 15 Jun 2004

Call for no-fly zone as killing continues


Key points

• Refugees claim hundreds killed by Sudanese government attacks in Darfur
• Survivors claim men, women and children have been slaughtered
• UK considers for 'no fly zone' to prevent civilian bombings in region

Key quote "Should not the UN Security Council enforce a no-fly zone and consult with those states with the capability to do so?" Michael Howard, the Conservative leader

Story in full REFUGEES fleeing the genocide in Sudan say the Khartoum regime’s forces are continuing to carry out murderous attacks on the population of the Darfur region, despite assurances that the killing is over.

The British government is now considering pressing for a United Nations-imposed "no-fly" zone over Darfur, to stop the Sudanese government bombing civilians in the shattered province.

Hundreds of people are reported to have died in Darfur in recent days after their villages were targeted in a fresh spate of attacks by Sudanese aircraft, soldiers and the Janjaweed militia, which is backed by Khartoum. Survivors who have reached the Chadian side of the border describe seeing men, women and children slaughtered in the attacks.

Tony Blair, the Prime Minister, yesterday told MPs he would weigh up the merits of international patrols above Darfur, modelled on the air-exclusion zones once imposed on northern and southern Iraq.

The suggestion was raised by Michael Howard, the Conservative Party leader, in a Commons debate over last week’s G8 leaders’ summit in the US.

"Should not the UN Security Council enforce a no-fly zone and consult with those states with the capability to do so?" Mr Howard asked.

"I’ll certainly look into the issue," Mr Blair replied.

Last week, the G8 said that Sudan is responsible for "massive human rights abuses" in Darfur, and the UN Security Council unanimously approved a resolution calling for a halt to violence in the area.

In one of the most harrowing accounts, refugees at Senette, just over the border from Sudan, yesterday described how militiamen fired on people in the village of Rifedakoza, and drove them up to the nearby Djabal Moune mountain, where they were bombed by Sudanese government Antonov aircraft. The survivors said that the aircraft then returned to bomb those who had remained in the village. They said that as many as 300 people were killed in the attack, which took place on 2 June, although rebel sources believed the number of dead was closer to 200.

Haloum Abdelkerim, who was camped out under a tree on open ground near the border, said she witnessed a woman who was nine months’ pregnant killed when a bomb exploded on the mountain.

"When I went to her after the bomb fell, the baby was outside her stomach and her stomach was open," she said. "They were both dead."

She said the woman, whom she knew only as Halawa, had four other children who were still hiding on the mountain with their father.

Amhayal Abba Oussmane, who also fled, said: "Even the stones on the ground were destroyed. The bombs cut people like sticks being snapped. You could find a head here, a leg there, a hand somewhere else."

Another woman said she saw ten of her relatives killed when Sudanese planes dropped

bombs on the village of Kouwa and gunmen cut down women who were running away from the explosions.

Koubra Hassabou, 50, said she was looking after her donkeys and camels in the fields outside the village, some distance from the border, when she heard the sound of aircraft overhead.

"It was an hour after midday. I went to the field and I heard shooting and bombing," she said. "The planes were bombing. They were high in the sky, and when I came back there were a lot of people running and a lot of people were killed. "They killed our relatives, the women who were driving their cattle; they killed the women and took their cattle. When the women were running I saw them fall down when they were shot."

The UN estimates that about one million people, who have been driven from their homes in Darfur by attacks launched by Sudanese government forces and by the Khartoum-backed Arab Janjaweed militia, remain on the Sudanese side of the border, unable to get to safety. Another 200,000 people have made it across into neighbouring Chad, to the west. Some of those have found shelter in UN-organised refugee camps, though many more are camping out with little shelter along a 600km (372-mile) stretch of border.

Reports from people coming out of Sudan suggest that those who have taken refuge in camps inside Darfur are dying in their hundreds.

There are also fears that thousands more refugees are preparing to pour into Chad. Humanitarian workers in Sudan have reported that up to 50,000 people may be waiting to cross when the rainy season begins in a matter of days. They are understood to have been waiting with their animals a little way away from the border, unwilling to risk taking them across the barren area of land until there is sufficient water.

Some survivors of the latest attacks have crossed the border at Senette, an arid location on the northern section of the stretch of border along which refugees are camped, within the last six days after walking from their villages. About 150 have been living rough under trees in the area, while others have crossed at Tine, a little further north, and have used the clothes they brought with them to build temporary shelters.

Yesterday, Helene Caux, spokeswoman for the UN High Commission for Refugees in Chad, said aid agencies faced a race against time to move refugees away from the border before the rains started and made roads impassable.

"There is an emergency to keep moving people on a daily basis because when the rains start to fall it will not be possible to access the border," she said.

She said the UNHCR had so far moved about 95,000 people into eight camps but another 60,000 remained by the border.

The UN is planning for 200,000 refugees by the end of the year, but Ms Caux said there was a danger that many more might cross. "What we are fearing is that if the situation does not improve in Darfur there will be another influx of people into Chad and that will be a huge challenge."

The UN admits it has struggled to draw public attention to the crisis and to find sufficient funds. It initially appealed for $21 million (£11 million) to cope with 70,000 to 80,000 refugees, a figure that has now been increased to $55 million. So far it has raised only $18 million.

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