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Arab militia accused of new rampage in Darfur

4/8/2005 7:54pm

By Irwin Arieff

UNITED NATIONS, April 8 (Reuters) - Over 350 Arab militia fighters mounted on horses and camels rampaged through a village in southern Darfur this week, killing, burning and destroying everything in their paths, the African Union and the United Nations said on Friday.

"We condemn this senseless and premeditated savage attack" which destroyed everything in the rebel-held village of Khor Abeche but the mosque and the school, the organizations said in a joint statement, vowing to refer the militia commander's name to the U.N. Security Council for possible sanctions.

The statement for the first time in the troubled region named the commander, identifying him as Nasir al Tijani Adel Kaadir of the Miseriyya tribe, based in the Arab militia stronghold of Nitega.

The Security Council has recently voted to impose a travel ban and an asset freeze on those responsible for atrocities against civilians or cease-fire violations in Darfur, and to refer those responsible for war crimes to the International Criminal Court in The Hague.

Thursday's raid came just days before wealthy nations were due to gather in Oslo to pledge aid to rebuild southern Sudan, devastated by a separate conflict that ended early this year.

The Darfur attack appeared to be in retaliation for the alleged theft of 150 head of cattle, which the fighters blamed on Khor Abeche villagers, the A.U.-U.N. statement said.

Al Tijani also accused Sudan Liberation Army rebels of refusing to return the bodies of two of his men, killed in March in an earlier attack on Khor Abeche, it said.

The African Union had planned to deploy peacekeepers to both Khor Abeche and Nitega before the attack but was prevented from doing so "by what can only be inferred as deliberate official procrastination over the allocation of land for the troops' accommodation," according to the statement.

African Union Ambassador Baba Gana Kingibe and U.N. envoy Jan Pronk said Sudan's government should also take action against al Tijani, accusing him of repeatedly threatening the village's destruction before actually doing so on Thursday.

More than 180,000 people have died in Darfur from hunger and disease over the past year and a half and more than 2 million have fled their homes to makeshift camps in the remote, western desert region, according to U.N. estimates.

The crisis was triggered in February 2003 when pastoral rebel groups took up arms against the government in a struggle over power and scarce resources. Khartoum retaliated by arming nomadic Arab militia which are accused of a campaign of murder, rape and arson against villagers that the United States has called genocide.

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