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September 18, 2008

Heavy bombing in Darfur

Sudanese army planes bombing with heavy battles between resistance forces and janjaweed backed by aircraft.

"There is bombing both at Khazan Tungur and near Tawila with Antonov planes," Abu Bakr Kadu, a commander from the SLA-Unity faction, said from Darfur. The bombing has intensified over the past two weeks despite the fact that all offensive flying in Darfur is banned under the 2005 UN Security Council resolution.

Rebels on Wednesday said about 100 government vehicles packed with troops launched an attack, but were beaten back when separate SLA factions joined together in a unified force.   "The bombing has continued again after Wednesday, but there are no government soldiers now," Kadu said, a report backed by other rebels.

"The ground forces are not here now, but the Antonovs are moving across the area," said Ibrahim al-Hillo, a commander from the SLA faction led by Paris-based exile Abdel Wahid Mohammed Nur.  

The joint UN-African Union mission in Darfur (UNAMID) said peacekeepers at Tawila had witnessed  a heavy troop presence.  A UNAMID helicopter was also fired at but not hit in the Birmaza area of north Darfur on Wednesday, the fourth attack on a peacekeeping helicopter.  The movement of UNAMID is heavily restricted with barely a third of the planned force deployed, and peacekeepers calling repeatedly for more helicopters.

Thousands of civilians are reported to have fled fighting in the past week, with their villages looted and burnt by government-supported militias, the Janjaweed.

Food rations from the World Food Programme were cut again this month for the 3.3 million people it feeds across Darfur .  
More than 100 vehicles carrying aid from the World Food Programme have been hijacked in Darfur this year, with 43 drivers and 63 trucks still missing. Many more have been shot at and robbed, the WFP says.

The recent clashes have come amid mounting pressure on Sudanese President Omar al-Beshir as he seeks to head off potential charges from the International Criminal Court for alleged war crimes and genocide in Darfur.

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