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UN Says Arab Militias May Have Killed Hundreds of Civilians in South Darfur Recently

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (UHCHR) says militia attacks in South Darfur this past August may have left hundreds of civilians dead – many more than originally thought. It’s calling on the government of Sudan to investigate the attacks.

Jose Luis Diaz is a spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. From Geneva, he spoke to VOA English to Africa Service reporter Joe De Capua about the attacks on Darfur civilians.

“It’s a series of attacks that took place from around the 28th of August until the beginning of September. We have direct reports from eyewitnesses that up to 1,000 members of militia groups attacked from 45 villages in the Buram locality. That’s in South Darfur. These attacks could have caused hundreds of civilian deaths and the displacement of thousands of villagers. Reportedly the area where the attacks took place is completely deserted now as a result of the assaults. And we feel that this displacement might have been one of the objectives of these attacks,” he says.

Asked if it is known which militias are responsible for the attacks, Diaz says, “According to reports we have from eyewitnesses and other sources, these would be militiamen from the Habbania tribe. This is what in the region would be called an Arab tribe. And the targets of the attacks belong to the Zaghawa, Masssalit and Misserya Jebel tribes. And these are called tribes of African origin.

They (Habbania) have been implicated in attacks in the same area, attacks that took place last April - militia from the same group also carrying out assaults on civilians and villagers in this area.”

Diaz says the violence in Darfur may be even worse that it was before the signing of a peace accord earlier this year. So far, the UHCHR has not received a response from the Khartoum government about its call for an investigation into the latest attacks in the area.