Background CRISIS PROFILE-What's going on in Sudan's Darfur?
(Adds quotes, detail, background)
By Richard Waddington
GENEVA, Sept 29 (Reuters) - Twenty-nine people were reported killed in an unprecedented attack on a refugee camp in the north-west of the Sudan region of Darfur, the United Nations said on Thursday.
According to initial reports, the Aro Sharow camp was attacked by 250-300 "armed Arab men on horses and camels" late on Wednesday, the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said in a statement.
Another 10 people were reported to have been seriously wounded and the nearby village of Gosmeina was also believed to have been attacked and burned, the agency said. The death toll referred only to camp dwellers.
The camp, home to between 4,000 and 5,000 people, lies 16 km (10 miles) north of the town of Saleah in an area that has been regarded as a no-go zone for the U.N. for months because of continuing violence.
Nevertheless, this was the first time that a camp had been attacked since fighting broke out in the vast Sudanese region over two years ago forcing hundreds of thousands to flee to the makeshift settlements, the UNHCR said.
The U.N. has already warned that it may have to suspend aid operations in Darfur because of a resurgence in violence.
Following the attack, High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres said it was the responsibility of the Sudanese government to restore order.
"As long as this insecurity continues, the international community cannot provide the assistance that is so desperately needed by hundreds of thousands of people," Guterres said.
"The government of Sudan has a responsibility to ensure security for all its citizens," he added.
The UNHCR said that most of the camp dwellers had fled into the surrounding countryside, which the U.N. considers unsafe.
The attackers had apparently burned about 80 crude shelters, around a quarter of the camp's households.
Fighting erupted in Darfur in early 2003 after years of low level conflict when rebels took up arms over what they saw as Khartoum's preferential treatment of Arab tribes.
They accused the government of backing militias that have driven non-Arabs from their villages. Khartoum denies the accusations.
Tens of thousands have been killed and more than two million people are living in the camps, mostly inside Darfur, which is the size of France.
Clashes have continued despite a ceasefire agreement and liltle progress has been made in peace talks in Abuja, the Nigerian capital, brokered by the African Union.