Sudan: Rebels attacking civilians in southern Darfur - AU

Khartoum_(dpa) _ Armed elements from the Sudan Liberation Movement (SLM) are attacking civilians in southern Darfur following clashes between the SLM and another rebel group, the African Union said on Tuesday.

The AU says at least 11 people have died in the fighting in Gereida, site of a town and a vast refugee camp of some 130,000 displaced Darfuris.

AU spokesman Noureddine Mezni said that AU commanders in the region reported on Tuesday attacks on unarmed men, women and children.

"SLM combatants were busy looting the properties of the men and raping the wives," Mezni told Deutsche Presse-Agentur dpa, adding that the AU had witnessed unarmed men being forced out of the area by SLM members.

Deteriorating security has forced humanitarian workers to flee the sprawling Gereida camp, one of the largest for displaced people in the world.

"The situation is very, very tense and we are very concerned," Mezni said.

Meanwhile, Sudan said this week that it will not extend the cash-strapped AU's mission in Darfur past December, following a suggestion by the top UN envoy to Sudan, Jan Pronk, that the AU remain in embattled Darfur indefinitely.

Sudan has refused to allow a UN mission to replace the 7,700 AU troops in Darfur, a region the size of France.

The AU voted this month to remain in Darfur until the end of December to prevent a security vacuum.

Diplomatic efforts have been stepped up in recent days, with the head of the Arab League, Amr Moussa, arriving in Khartoum on Tuesday for talks on Darfur with Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir.

European Commission President, Jose Manuel Barroso also visited Khartoum and Darfur late last week.

The three-and-a-half-year Darfur conflict began when rebels rose against the central government complaining that the remote region remained undeveloped due to political and economic marginalization.

Sudan is charged with responding by arming Arab militias to crush the rebellion using a savage campaign of rape and murder.

Tens of thousands have died and more than 2 million people have been displaced in Darfur and eastern Chad since the start of the conflict. dpa nk tg cb


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