South Darfur: Janjaweed attack IDP camps Kele, Silo, Tege, Um Gozein, Ton Kittir - Mass exodus from Mershing - Joint Sudan/AU forces to patrol?
Excerpts from the report 31 January 2006:
Gunmen on camels and horses prompted the mass exodus after shooting and looting in the camps and the town of Mershing, local people said. Now tens of thousands of families huddle on exposed ground in the nearby town of Manawashi - with dwindling stocks of food and little shelter.
The mass exodus from Mershing began last Wednesday (25 January) when, according to local Sheiks, gunmen on camels and horses attacked and looted one of the camps for displaced people called Kele. The Sheiks alleged police complicity in the attack, saying they helped to carry out the looted goods in their vehicles and led the attackers out of town.
On the following days, there were reports of attacks in other camps - Silo, Tege, and Um Gozein camps - including one in which a man who had some gold was allegedly shot and killed after refusing to hand it over.
On Thursday (26 January) evening, the militia struck Ton Kittir camp, driving their camels and horses into the camp, firing their Kalashnikovs, and looting shops, said local Sheiks.
They are also reported to have attacked the market in Mershing town using hammers to open shops.
People fled in panic as the attacks and looting continued and when neither the local police nor the African Union peacekeeping force - based 80 kilometres away in Nyala - was able to halt the deterioration in security.
Staff from ACT-Caritas and their partner agencies, the Sudan Council of Churches (SCC) and the Sudan Development Organisation (SUDO) alerted both the African Union (AU) and the United Nations headquarters in Nyala to the ongoing crisis. The AU sent a patrol on Tuesday and Wednesday and promised local people to return with reinforcements, but did not do so. An AU spokesperson later told ACT-Caritas that they did not return because the Government of Sudan police were not ready to patrol the area with them, which is a requirement.
Local people said that relations between police and people in Mershing were good until about a fortnight ago, when six Government of Sudan police were killed in an ambush on the Mershing to Manawashi road. The following Sunday, armed gunmen on horseback and camels entered the market in Mershing town, shooting and looting animals, they said. Then the number of attacks escalated.
The local governor of South Darfur has visited the area and the Sudanese authorities have said they want the people to go back. They have agreed to withdraw the existing police force and say there could be joint patrols between the police and African Union forces within a week. But observers believe this timescale is highly optimistic.
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Update 1 Feb 2006: IRIN reports that an estimated 70,000 people have been displaced in a series of recent attacks on IDP camps in South Darfur.