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Amnesty International Warns of Imminent Attack in Darfur

United Kingdom based human rights group Amnesty International warned Tuesday that the eastern part of Darfur would soon come under deadly attacks if care is not taken to prevent the imminent danger. This comes after the group said it received reports suggesting that Sudanese armed forces are gathering in large numbers in some towns close to the northern part of Darfur. Meanwhile, locals are reportedly scared further attacks by opposition or government forces could derail peace talks, scheduled to be hosted by Libyan leader Muammar Gadhafi in the capital Tripoli before the end of the month.

From the London Amnesty International Sudan researcher Liz Hodgkins tells reporter Peter Clottey that the group wants to warn the world to take action before matters get worse.

“In the last week, there have been two various attacks by the Sudan Armed Forces and one followed by probably a rebel attack -- it’s not yet certain -- on the base of the African Union peacekeeping force. Sudanese armed forces moved into Haskanita in north Darfur and burned down the town completely. And then yesterday, in Mahajeria, there were reports of bombing and attacks by Sudan Armed Forces and janjaweed on the western part of the town, and more than 40 people killed. And now we hear they are massing in northern Sudan,” Hodgkins said.

She cautioned that Amnesty International cannot stress enough that the world must take action before any attacks jeopardize this month’s Libya peace talks.

“We want, if possible, to prevent more attacks where there would be more civilians killed, more people displaced, by alerting the world to this,” she noted.

Hodgkins said events on the ground are proof enough that deadly attacks are imminent on the civilian population.

“I think that there is a danger that if the troops are massing and see if there are attacks, civilians are being killed and towns are being destroyed, it’s important to note that both bear the fact of what has happened in the last week,” said Hodgkins.

She urged peace forces in the country to be more protective of the civilian population.

“The peace force should be more proactive as far as possible and go outside to protect civilians. But another thing is AMIS (the African Union Mission in Sudan) still doesn’t have the necessary equipment to make tins possible. For instance, the helicopters they have are all provided by contractors, so when they say sorry, it’s not safe, they can’t go for instance when the AMIS space is being attacked in Haspanita, and they couldn’t use the helicopters to go and relieve them. But if they had military helicopters, then they would be able to order them to go, and they could go to relieve those forces. Another thing that they lack is armored personnel carriers, which still haven’t arrived,” she pointed out.

Hodgkins bitterly attributes what she thinks are reasons behind the slow pace of deploying necessary equipment to help protect the civilian population.

“I think part of this may be delaying and procrastination from the Sudanese government, and part of it is lack of will by the international community actually to get these equipment there,” she said.