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UN Officials Express Shock at Destruction of West Darfur Village


The UN refugee agency reports that UN aid workers who visited western Darfur recently have expressed shock at the level of destruction in one village. As Lisa Schlein reports from UNHCR headquarters in Geneva, the village came under Sudanese government attack earlier this month.

Members of a joint UN humanitarian mission went to Sirba to assess the damage incurred during bombardments by the Sudanese government earlier this month. Sirba is one of three towns in West Darfur that came under fire.

The mission included the UN humanitarian coordinator for Sudan as well as representatives of the UN refugee agency, the World Food Program and the UN Children's Fund.

UN refugee spokesman, Ron Redmond, says the mission was shocked by what it saw.

"The preliminary reports that we got from this mission and from an earlier mission that went to that area said about 40 percent of that particular village was destroyed," he said. "Burned to the ground basically in these attacks. So, it is a fairly high level of destruction."

The attacks also affected the nearby villages of Silea and Abou Sourouj. Redmond says before the attacks, the three villages had a total population of about 30,000, some of whom have now fled to eastern Chad.

An estimated 10,000 refugees from West Darfur fled to Chad following the bombardments that began February 8. Redmond says the residents, speaking to members of the U.N. mission, were desperate for help.

"Residents of the town pleaded for help in securing their villages. And, they also told the mission that fleeing to neighboring Chad was dangerous, because of the ongoing conflict as well as banditry in the area," he added. "They also expressed concern about their compatriots who had fled across the border to eastern Chad two weeks ago. The assessment mission noted that many villagers who had been internally displaced as a result of the February 8 air raids had returned to Sirba. Upon their return a few days after the violence, the UN provided the villagers with emergency relief assistance, including food and shelter material, while the Sudanese government provided tents."

Meanwhile in eastern Chad, Redmond says a humanitarian convoy that was trying to reach the border from the Chadian town of Guereda Friday had to turn back. He says military activity on the other side of the border in Darfur put the mission in danger.

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