Feb 20, 2007 (KHARTOUM) — Janjaweed militias have been concentrating forces to the north of el-Geneina, the capital of Sudan’s West Darfur state, an African Union military source said on Tuesday, corroborating a U.N. report.
- Soldiers in a miltary unit calling themselves variously the Border Intelligence Division, Second Reconnaisance Brigade, or the Quick and the Horrible, also believed to form part of the Janjaweed militia, walk around the weekly animal market in Mistiria in North Darfur, Sudan, Tuesday, Oct. 5, 2004. Mistiria is the home town and base of Musa Hilal, the alleged coordinator of the militia known as the Janjaweed who have been accused of committing atrocities in the conflict in Darfur. AP.
Janjaweed is the local name for militia forces drawn mainly from the nomadic Arab tribes of the area and blamed for much of the killing in Darfur over the past four years.
The AU source, who asked not to be named, said: "They are massing (north of el-Geneina). ... They have vehicles with machineguns on top and they’re Janjaweed. We can’t say what their intentions are."
The source declined to give numbers, but described the forces gathered as a "huge amount of personnel", with pick-up trucks, camels and horses, while a U.N. mission spokeswoman said the militia numbered in the hundreds.
The AU source said an African Union helicopter was keeping the force under surveillance and the government was being notified. The Sudanese military could not be reached for comment.
A former rebel movement said a separate Janjaweed force has been attacking villages far to the east of the Darfur region for the past two days, killing six civilians.
That Janjaweed activity was north of ed-Da’ein, a town about 450 km (300 miles) southeast of el-Geneina.
A spokesman for the Sudan Liberation Movement (SLM), the only rebel faction to sign a May peace accord with the government, said the militia had pillaged food and burned houses in an attack which began on Monday and continued on Tuesday.
Six civilians were killed and two injured, he added. An army spokesman said he could not comment immediately.
"Nine months after (the signing of the peace agreement), Darfur has not lived with stability. We want to affirm that government officials who say the situation is stable in Darfur ... want to deceive the Sudanese people," said SLM spokesman Al-Tayyib Khamis.
Khamis said the militia were using heavy weaponry given to them by the government, and the attacks were a "blatant violation" of the Darfur peace agreement.
Rights group and Western governments say the Sudanese government has used the Janjaweed as auxiliaries against Darfur rebels and civilians suspected of rebel sympathies. The government denies this and says the Janjaweed are outlaws.
On Monday, a report by the U.N. Mission in Sudan said "armed militia have been mobilising in large numbers over the last five days in the general area of Abou Souroug and Sliea (approximately 50 km north of el-Geneina). The reason behind the massive militia mobilisation is so far not known."
Tribal clashes in South Darfur killed up to 100 people last week, according to the United Nations.
Darfur, an arid area the size of France, has been ravaged by violence since 2003, when rebels took up arms, accusing the government in Khartoum of ignoring the region.
Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir has resisted pressure to authorise a deployment of thousands of U.N. peacekeepers to support the 7,000-strong African Union mission in Darfur, saying the AU force was strong enough and the United Nations could give money and logistical help to a hybrid force.
Experts estimate 2.5 million people have been driven from their homes in four years of conflict in Darfur. Washington calls the violence genocide, a term which European governments are reluctant to use and which Khartoum rejects.