Sudanese security forces have increased their presence outside of a major displaced persons camp in the country's western region of Darfur, a day after entering the camp and engaging in clashes with residents. Derek Kilner reports from Nairobi.
Government security forces entered Kalma camp early Monday in southern Darfur, saying they were looking for weapons and criminals. Several people died in the ensuing clashes, but exactly how many and who prompted the clashes, is in dispute.
According to the official news agency, government security forces say they were attacked when they entered the camp. They say five policemen and seven civilians were injured and nobody was killed. The government says police will remain outside the camp until the seizure of weapons is complete.
Yahia El Bashir, a spokesman for a faction of the Sudan Liberation Army led by Ahmed Abdel Shafie, said at least 60 civilians had been killed by government forces, and at least 100 injured. He said the government wants to drive residents out of the camp.
"Government forces are preparing to enter the camp again," he said. "They bring a lot of heavy weapons and heavy logistical support from other areas in order to enter the camp, to destroy the camp, and to kill civilians. This is the strategy of Omar al-Bashir since he came from Turkey. He said that he wants to confront the international community, he wants to wipe all the camps from the map in Darfur."
President al-Bashir, on his first trip abroad since the International Criminal Court moved to indict him for genocide, attended a Turkey-Africa economic cooperation summit last week.
The U.N. peacekeeping mission in Darfur, known as UNAMID, has held off offering an estimate of those killed, but spokesman Noureddine Mezni says the number is at least 11, and probably higher.
"According to our people on the ground, they have seen 11 bodies. In unconfirmed reports, the number of dead persons was higher than that number. Such reports will be confirmed by UNAMID today," said Mezni.
Mezni said the mission is looking to find a solution to the continued insecurity in the camp.
"We are concerned about what is going on, of course, and we are engaging the government of South Darfur. It is not the first time that these kind of events took place. Last year it was an almost similar scenario, so we have to come out with a lasting solution. And as a matter of fact, the government of South Darfur asked us to organize a meeting with IDP representatives and representatives from International NGOs to find a solution to this tension which is prevailing in this big and huge camp since a long time," he added.
Rebel spokesman el-Bashir was disappointed with the U.N. response.
"We are very very very astonished by the failure of the UNAMID forces," said el-Bashir. "They came to protect civilians and now they let civilians be killed by the Khartoum government. "
The U.S. State Department raised concern with "indiscriminate weapons fire" by Sudanese security forces, saying attacks on displaced persons are "deplorable and violate international law".
Kalma Camp, home to 80,000 people displaced by fighting in Darfur since 2003, has long been a trouble spot. The government says rebels hid out in the camp, and have made previous attempts to confiscate weapons and remove residents.
More than 200,000 people have died in the conflict in Darfur since 2003, according to international estimates, and more than 2.5 million have been displaced. The Sudanese government puts the number killed at no more than 10,000.