Monday, April 2, 2007

Arab tribe in Darfur reports 62 killed, 21 wounded in attack

By Agence France Presse (AFP)

Monday, April 02, 2007

KHARTOUM: At least 62 people were killed and 21 wounded in an attack on an Arab tribe in the war-torn Darfur region of western Sudan, according to the victims' relatives on Sunday.

"Two new bodies were left at the hospital in Nyala," the south Darfur provincial seat, Abdel Rahman Hasaballah of the targeted Torjam tribe told AFP by telephone.

Tribal chief Mohammad Hammad Jalali initially told AFP that 60 people were killed by gunmen riding camels and donkeys who swooped down on villages to steal livestock.

"We buried 23 people on Saturday," he said at the time, with the rest still at the morgue.

Thirteen wounded villagers are being treated in the provincial capital of Nyala and another eight in the nearby town of Kas, he said.

Families initially refused to collect the bodies from the hospital in protest.

They finally agreed to do so after setting three conditions for the authorities - an impartial investigation to identify the perpetrators, better protection and compensation for the victims' families.

The Torjam are blaming the attack on the government-backed Janjaweed militia, often used by the Sudanese authorities to suppress a rebellion raging in the region for the past four years.

But local officials quoted by the press blamed the killings on a rival Arab tribe in the region, the Rzigat Aballa - which in the past had provided recruits for the Janjaweed.

"We think the Rzigat Aballa is responsible for the attack because it occurred in the area of recent clashes between the two tribes," said Mohammad al-Ajeb, adding that some 500 heads of cattle had been seized and driven northwest. The authorities negotiated a truce between the two tribes in February after earlier confrontations.

United Nations and African Union envoys on recent visits to Khartoum bidding to find a peaceful solution to the Darfur crisis warned against tribal rivalries complicating the search for peace.

Since the outbreak of hostilities in the vast Darfur region in 2003, some 200,000 people have been killed and 2.5 million displaced in the fighting, according to UN estimates. Some sources say the death toll is much higher.

A 2006 peace agreement with one rebel faction has failed to halt the fighting. - AFP

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