CAIRO, Jan 26, 2005 (AP) — The Sudanese air force bombed villagers in South Darfur on Wednesday, the African Union reported. An international aid organization said casualties were inflicted.
- Village of terbeba after being burnt
"It is a major cease-fire violation," said the senior AU political officer for Sudan, Jean Baptiste Natama.
Darfur rebels have often accused the government of using its air force against civilians, and Khartoum has usually denied such charges. Aerial bombardments are rarely confirmed by the African Union, which has about 1,400 cease-fire monitors and protection troops in the western Sudan region, where violence persists in spite of two cease fire agreements.
The reported bombing comes a week after fighting in nearby districts in south Darfur killed about 100 people and caused more than 9,000 people to flee their homes, a U.N. spokesman said Wednesday. Most of the dead were women and children, spokesman George Somerwill told reporters at the UN offices in Khartoum. He did not say whether rebel or pro-government forces were responsible.
On Wednesday, U.S. officials at the U.N. headquarters in New York said the United States is making several proposals to the Security Council meant to bring such perpetrators of atrocities in Darfur to justice.
The U.S. ideas would involve using methods other than the International Criminal Court, a body the United States opposes, U.S. Mission spokesman Richard Grenell said.
One possibility the United States is suggesting would involve boosting the role of the African Union, while another would involve making aid for a separate peace deal in the south dependent on resolving Darfur, two U.S. officials told The AP on condition of anonymity.
The attack Wednesday, an air force Antonov airplane dropped bombs outside the town of Shangil Tobaya, about 40 miles south of El Fasher, at about 3 p.m., the Khartoum-based official of an NGO said in a phone interview. The official spoke on condition of anonymity and asked that his organization not be named for fear of retribution.
Field workers of the same NGO in Shangil Tobaya saw the bombs exploding on the ground and saw the Antonov circling overhead, the official said.
The NGO official said his field workers reported about 25 people took refuge in Shangil Tobaya before and after the bombardment as they were fleeing fighting outside the town. Some of them were "war wounded," the official said. He did not have figures for the casualties.
Previously, the NGO field workers had heard what sounded like an aerial bombardment, but Wednesday was the first time they actually saw one.
The Darfur conflict, which the United Nations describes as the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, began in February 2003 when the Sudan Liberation Army and allied Justice and Equality Movement took up arms against what they saw as years of state neglect and discrimination against Sudanese of African origin.
The government responded with a counter-insurgency campaign in which the Janjaweed, an Arab militia, committed wide-scale abuses against the African population. An estimated 1.8 million people have been displaced in the conflict and more than 70,000 have died.