Home | News    Saturday 30 October 2004

Rwandan troops fly to Darfur to beef up an African force

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KIGALI, Rwanda, Oct 30, 2004 (AP) — Dozens of Rwandan troops flew out Saturday aboard two U.S. Air Force transport planes, heading to Sudan’s troubled Darfur region to beef up a tiny African force seeking to stabilize the area.

The 65 officers and soldiers carried assault rifles and marched in single file to board C-130 planes for the four-hour flight to Darfur, said Rwandan defense spokesman Lt. Col. Charles Karamba.

A total of 237 Rwandan troops will fly out in the next five days to join 50 Nigerian troops deployed in Darfur on Thursday, said Rwandan defense spokesman Lt. Col. Charles Karamba.

The fresh troops are the first group of reinforcements for the African Union Mission in the Sudan, or AMIS.

"We are also carrying basic foods, water and other supplies that Rwandan troops are going to need during their stay in Darfur," Capt. Heather Healey, a U.S. Air Force spokeswoman told The Associated Press.

The new troops, together with the 310 military personnel from Nigeria and Rwanda the African Union already sent to Darfur earlier in August, will bring the military component of the AMIS to 597 troops, the 53-member organization said.

More troops from Nigeria and from other African countries are expected to be deployed in Darfur in the following days to strengthen the mission to 3,320 by the end of November.

"We are planning on doing more airlift operations during the next two weeks, carrying troops that the African Union will ask us to take to Darfur," Healey said.

The African Union mission will have 2,341 troops and military observers, 815 civilian police officers as well as civilian personnel, the organization said.

The crisis in Darfur began in February 2003, when rebels launched attacks against the Arab-dominated government, claiming discrimination in the distribution of scarce resources. Pro-government militias called the Janjaweed hit back, attacking Darfur villages.

At least 70,000 people have died, mainly from war-induced diseases, and 1.5 million have fled their homes since the conflict began.

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