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Sudanese forces amass again at Darfur camp after deadly raid

Dozens died in the Kalma refugee settlement Monday when government forces attacked, claiming to search for smuggled weapons.

By Arthur Bright

posted August 26, 2008 at 10:12 am EDT

Sudanese government forces who killed dozens of residents of a refugee camp in Darfur on Monday were gathering outside the camp again on Tuesday. Sudanese authorities claim the camp, which is strategically located near the regional capital airport and railways, is a base for Darfur's rebels and want to enter the settlement to search for smuggled weapons. But camp residents accuse the government of trying to clear the settlement and force them to return home under the auspices of a government resettlement plan.

Reuters reported on Tuesday that Sudanese government forces are amassing outside the Kalma refugee camp in southern Darfur. Residents within the camp fear a repeat of Monday, when Sudanese troops stormed the camp, leaving dozens dead and wounded.

Kalma resident Omar Ali Omar Suleiman told Reuters Sudanese police and soldiers had built up their positions around the camp overnight. "They are gathering outside. We think they will try to come in again," he said.

"We now know 46 persons have died and 118 were injured" in Monday's clash, he said.

The New York Times writes that Doctors Without Borders corroborated the extent of Monday's casualties at Kalma, which is "a sprawling collection of shacks and mud huts."

Workers from the aid group Doctors Without Borders were treating 65 people at the camp for gunshot wounds, half of them women and children. About 45 severely wounded people were later evacuated to a hospital in the regional capital, Nyala, about 15 miles away, said Jose Hulsenbek, the Darfur coordinator for the Dutch section of Doctors Without Borders.

Hussein Abu Sharati, a spokesman for the roughly 90,000 displaced people living in the camp, said dozens of heavily armed vehicles operated by Sudanese security forces surrounded the camp at dawn and opened fire.

The Sudanese police released a statement in Nyala on Monday saying that the operation had been carried out to seize weapons stored at the camp. It contended that Darfur rebel groups were planning to use the weapons to carry out assassinations.

The Sudan Tribune, a nonprofit news site based in France, reports that SUNA, the Sudanese state news agency, released a statement saying that only seven civilians were killed in the attack, which began when armed refugees opened fire on the government forces. Residents of the camp, however, denied the charge.

Abu-Sharati who described today's massacre as "genocide" denied the existence of any armed groups inside the camp who shot fire at Sudanese troops.

"Any one who dares to say that there was armed confrontation with the army is complicit in what happened today," he said angrily.

"The peaceful demonstration that took place today is the only means to protest against the daily oppression practiced against the refugees, and the clearest proof to what I say," Abu-Sharati said.

The Sudan Tribune adds that reports put the death toll between 50 and 122, with some 221 wounded.

The attack comes at a time when Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir is already under fierce criticism from the West over the crisis in Darfur. Last month, The Christian Science Monitor reported that he was indicted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) on charges of genocide for his role in the killing of 300,000 Sudanese and the displacement of 3.5 million from Darfur. Mr. Bashir has denied the charges and refuses to acknowledge the authority of the ICC.

The Sudan Tribune reports that Sudanese rebel groups condemned Monday's attack. Ahmed Hussein, a spokesman for the Justice and Equality Movement, said, "This is genocide happening before our eyes. The international community must live up to its responsibility and protect the civilians." Similarly, Abdel Wahid al-Nur, head of the Sudan Liberation Movement, accused the joint UN-African Union peacekeeping forces of "failing to fulfill their duties to protect the Darfuri people."

The report adds that camp residents believe the attack was an attempt to clear the settlement.

Hussein dismissed the government's statements and said that the plan was to disband the camp and remove its inhabitants.

"This is a plan orchestrated at the highest levels of government including Al-Bashir personally. Al-Bashir had promised last year to make the Darfur displaced go home before the UNAMID forces arrive in Darfur," Hussein said....

Ahmed Abdel Shafie, a commander in another faction of Sudan Liberation Army (SLA) told Agence France-Presse that Khartoum wants to disband [internally displaced persons] camps near main towns to push the conflict under the carpet after the ICC move.

The incident may turn into a public relations nightmare for the Sudanese government which has been trying to demonstrate to the world its seriousness in pursuing peace in Darfur in order to counter the ICC move.

The United States government also condemned the attack and called upon Khartoum to investigate the allegations, reports Bloomberg.

"We are concerned by indiscriminate weapons fire by Sudanese government forces" on the Kalma camp in Darfur, the State Department said in a statement on its Web site yesterday. "We call on the government of Sudan to thoroughly investigate this incident and ensure that such actions are not repeated. The United States deplores all violence in Darfur."

The United Nations received reports of attacks in Kalma that "resulted in injuries and deaths of civilians," Ameerah Haq, the UN's top emergency relief official in Sudan, said yesterday in an e-mailed statement from the capital, Khartoum.

The BBC reports that the international aid agency Doctors Without Borders is appealing for safe passage to evacuate the most seriously wounded residents of the camp.

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Wonder why Bush does not want to spread freedom,hope and democracy there?

People are dying everyday at the hands of madmen. Madmen with no oil, apparently.

I don't have a problem with the US acting in places where we have a national interest first. But the U.N. is entirely impotent; they and the A.U. should have stepped in years ago to protect the hundreds of thousands who have already been killed.

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At the very least I would think Jesse and Al would send in troops. I'm just sayin'...


And I think we should send in some as a part of a real U.N. effort. Last time the U.N. was in Sudan, the Belgian troops ran away from a bunch of guys with machetes. That's absolute impotence. U.N. "observers" simply can't get the job done.

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