August 26, 2008

Death Toll at Sudan’s Darfur Camp Reportedly Rises to 86

Text of report in English by Paris-based Sudanese newspaper Sudan Tribune website on 26 August

Sudanese troops today attacked the largest displaced camp located in South Darfur leaving scores dead and many more injured.

An IDP representative told Sudan Tribune that 86 people were killed and 221 wounded. However other put the death figures between 50 and 122.

Monday's attack is the fifth of its kind against Kalma camp which is the home of more than 90,000 people who fled their villages following Sudanese army and militias assaults during five years of conflict in the war ravaged region.

The local authorities insist that the Kalma camp is source of crimes, banditry, weapons caches and rebel groups.

But IDP's say that Khartoum is anxious to disband a camp that has become a symbol "for crimes perpetrated by the government in the last five years".

Husayn Abu-Sharati, the representative of the Darfur refugees and internally displaced people in Darfur camps, told Sudan Tribune late this evening that 86 people mostly children, women and elders were killed in today's assault.

Abu-Sharati who described today's massacre as "genocide" denied the existence of any armed groups inside the camp who shot fire at Sudanese troops.

"Any one who dares to say that there was armed confrontation with the army is complicit in what happened today" he said angrily.

"The peaceful demonstration that took place today is the only means to protest against the daily oppression practised against the refugees, and the clearest proof to what I say" Abu-Sharati said.

A spokesman for Sudanese troops told Reuters that an army search party was fired on from inside the camp.

Sudan official news agency (SUNA) released an official statement issued by the South Darfur Security Commission speaking about elements that fired on the regular troops injuring five soldiers. The statement said that only 7 IDP's were wounded.

The Aid group Medecins Sans Frontieres said that at least 65 people - more than half of them women and children - were treated at its Kalma clinic after being injured in the shooting.

The Sudanese authorities claimed to have received reliable intel about weapons smuggled recently into Kalma camp which is at a strategic position because of its proximity to the Nyala airport and railways

"Large quantities of weapons have been brought to the camps with the intention to carry out sabotage operations targeting government troops" the statement read.

Confusion still surrounds the death toll in the camp with various sources giving both higher and lower figures.

Abu-Sharati asserts he has a list of 86 people killed during the attack while Sudan Liberation Movement (SLM) leader Abd-al Wahid al- Nur put the figure at 122.

The Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) spokesperson Ahmad Husayn said that 70 lost their lives.

Noureddine Mezni, spokesperson for the joint UN/African Union UNAMID peacekeepers in Darfur, said that Sudanese police had shown peacekeepers a search warrant authorizing them to enter Kalma camp to search for weapons and "possible wanted persons".

The UN reacted cautiously and expressed "grave concern at the incident".

"Such actions severely threaten the safety and security of civilians, who have a right to protection under international humanitarian law" UN spokesperson Marie Okabe told reporters today in New York.

The UN Humanitarian Coordinator in Sudan Amirah Haq has called for the immediate establishment of a humanitarian corridor at the camp.

Today's attack comes more than a month after the International Criminal Court (ICC) prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo announced in mid- July that he requested an arrest warrant for Al-Bashir.

Ocampo filed 10 charges: three counts of genocide, five of crimes against humanity and two of murder and accused Al-Bashir of masterminding a campaign to get rid of the African tribes in Darfur; Fur, Masalit and Zaghawa.

Most of the Kalma camp residents are from the Fur tribe.

The incident may turn into a public relations nightmare for the Sudanese government which has been trying to demonstrate to the world its seriousness in pursuing peace in Darfur in order to counter the ICC move.

UN experts estimate some 300,000 people have died and 2.5 million driven from their homes. Sudan blames the Western media for exaggerating the conflict and puts the death toll at 10,000.

Originally published by Sudan Tribune website, Paris in English 26 Aug 08.

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