SUDAN WATCH: Sudan forces surround southerners in Soba Aradi

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Sudan forces surround southerners in Soba Aradi

May 24 reports from BBC and SiberNews. Excerpts:

More than 1,000 armed Sudanese security forces have surrounded an illegal shanty town full of Southerners about 30km south of Khartoum, where violent clashes killed at least 17 policemen and residents last week.

Machine guns mounted on pick-up vehicle are pointing at the ramshackle houses in Soba Aradi which is in a suburb of the capital, Khartoum. Several lorry loads of men and women have been arrested, beaten with sticks and taken to a local police station.

Last week 14 policemen died during an attempt to resettle residents. Officials said most of the victims died as crowds massed around the police station and burned it down.

A spokesman for the residents said no-one was being allowed out of Soba Aradi.

"They have cordoned off all areas and have taken tough measures to stop people leaving," Mohamed Ahmed Abdel Gader Arbab told Reuters news agency.

The BBC's Jonah Fisher says two million southerners squat illegally around Khartoum.

He says the Sudanese government has a long standing policy of trying to resettle these communities, but it is often to barren, desert sites that the people don't want to go to.

But Khartoum's governor, Abdul Haleem Mutafi, said police were hunting for known suspects in what was a criminal operation.

"This is nothing to do with the transfer of people. This is related to the security in the area. There are so many criminals in Soba Aradi," he told Reuters.
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A Reuters correspondent reports seeing at least 20 police vehicles and six lorries full of soldiers in an area outside the camp. Excerpt:

The police were heavily armed, with machine guns mounted on many of the vehicles.

The police were searching homes and had beaten some people before taking them away. It was not possible to say exactly how many had been detained.

A Reuters photographer and a driver as well as a BBC correspondent were released from police custody after being beaten and detained. The three men suffered bruising.

Security officials had said the detentions were a mistake.
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UPDATE May 24: Sudan'S State Minister of Interior Ahmed Mohamed Haroon told reporters 50 camp residents were arrested in an operation that began early Tuesday May 24, 2005 in connection with last week'S violence, which left 14 policemen and three civilians dead. Thousands of police descended on a camp for displaced people Tuesday to make arrests in connection with deadly clashes last week between police and residents resisting being moved. Abdul Haleem Mutaafi, the governor of Khartoum state, has said he planned to remove about 2,000 people who had settled in the camp from war zones in Sudan's south and west and send them elsewhere. (AP Photo/Abd Raouf)

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