Sudan forces surround Darfur camp after raid: rebels

By Andrew Heavens

KHARTOUM, Aug 26 (Reuters) - Sudanese forces accused of killing dozens of people in a raid on a displaced persons camp in Darfur were massing outside the camp again on Tuesday, rebels and residents said.

Residents of South Darfur's Kalma camp told Reuters they feared government forces were preparing to make a second attempt to enter the settlement after an assault on Monday.

Kalma, home to 90,000 people forced out of their homes by fighting in west Sudan's desert Darfur region since rebellion broke out more than five years ago, has long been a flashpoint.

Sudanese authorities have launched a number of failed attempts to seize arms from the camp in the past, claiming rebels and bandits use it as a base.

Camp residents and Darfur rebels have accused the government of trying to clear the camp to force residents to return to their homes under a government resettlement plan.

Kalma resident Omar Ali Omar Suleiman told Reuters Sudanese police and soldiers had built up their positions around the camp overnight. "They are gathering outside. We think they will try to come in again," he said.

He said 36 people had died and 118 were injured when armed police and soldiers entered the camp early Monday, correcting his earlier statement that 46 people had died.

Aid group Médecins Sans Frontières said it managed to evacuate 49 people suffering from gunshot wounds to hospital in nearby Nyala, where one died overnight.

Ahmed Abdel Shafie, leader of a rebel Sudan Liberation Army (SLA)faction, said many other casualties were still in the camp.

But the state SUNA news agency quoted a statement from South Darfur state's Security Committee saying the only casualties were five injured police officers and seven injured residents.

SUNA said armed Kalma residents had fired on police when officers moved in to seize weapons after receiving reports that a large cache had been delivered to Kalma.

They were "met with strong resistance from the instigated and mobilized displaced citizens who were incited to put barricades and to move in the streets," SUNA reported.

Police will hold their positions outside the camp until the collection of the "stockpiled weapons" was complete, it added.


Shafie, of the SLA faction, said government forces had blocked the road out of the camp. "There is no one going in or out. The situation is very bad with the rains, and food is running out. They are surrounding the camp."

He said government agents inside the camp, not residents, had started the fighting. "They infiltrated Kalma to provoke the residents and justify their own atrocities," he said.

The raid came at a highly sensitive time in Darfur after the International Criminal Court moved to indict President Omar Hassan al-Bashir for genocide in the remote western region.

Darfur rebels, who back the ICC move, have accused Khartoum of carrying out a string of attacks and bombings in the region in an attempt to gain territory before negotiations with the new joint U.N.-African Union mediator for Darfur Djibril Bassole.

Bassole on Tuesday told reporters in Khartoum "certain events enormously complicated the task" of searching for peace and security in Darfur, without referring directly to Kalma.

"The main impression I have gained is that the Sudanese want peace," he added, after a meeting with Sudanese presidential advisor Mustafa Osman Ismail on the first full day of his mission in Sudan.

International experts say 200,000 people have been killed and more than 2.5 million driven from their homes by the fighting in Darfur. Khartoum puts the death count at 10,000.

(Editing by Mary Gabriel)


Reuters - Thomson Reuters Foundation
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