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Sudan Rebels Say Pro-Government Militia Attacks Continuing Against Civilians - 2004-07-23

Rebels in western Sudan say the pro-government Janjaweed militiamen have attacked civilians in the Darfur region several times this week, despite Khartoum's pledge to disarm the militia. The rebels also accuse the Sudanese government of sending military planes to support the Janjaweed and to harass civilians.

The latest accusations come amid a United Nations Security Council debate on whether to impose sanctions on Sudan for failing to disband the Janjaweed.

The Chad-based spokesman for the rebel Sudan Liberation Movement, Adam Ali Shogar, tells VOA that Arab Janjaweed militias are ignoring international threats and condemnations and are continuing to kill and kidnap black African civilians in Darfur.

Mr. Shogar says even though the Sudanese government denies having any ties to the Janjaweed, he says Russian-made Antonov bombers belonging to the Sudanese military can still be seen over Darfur, flying in support of the Janjaweed during raids on villages.

"Since last week, there was an attack and burning of villages and people are just wandering [around] displaced. Even today, I get a report that an Antonov is over their heads, east of Nyala," Mr. Shogar said.

Nyala is the capital of Southern Darfur State.

In an interview with the Reuters News Agency, a spokesman for the other main rebel group, Justice and Equality Movement, went further, accusing the government of integrating more than 6,000 Janjaweed militiamen into the local police force recently, and giving them new uniforms and weapons.

Officials in Khartoum could not be reached Friday for comment on the latest rebel accusations.

During a visit to Paris this week, Sudanese Foreign Minister Mustafa Ismail told reporters that Khartoum was upholding the promises it had made to U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan earlier this month to arrest Janjaweed leaders accused of committing atrocities and to disarm their militias. Mr. Ismail said about 100 Janjaweed members have been arrested so far and promised that they would be brought to justice.

But with allegations of providing arms and support to Janjaweed militias continuing, there is now even greater pressure on Khartoum to open the conflict in Darfur to international scrutiny or face severe sanctions.

On Thursday, the United States circulated a draft U.N. Security Council resolution authorizing sanctions on Sudan if it does not prosecute leaders of Janjaweed groups. Later Thursday, Congress passed a non-binding resolution that called the atrocities in Darfur acts of genocide.

The United Nations estimates as many as 30,000 people have been killed and a million others displaced during the 15 month-old conflict. Aid groups fear that the onset of the rainy season, combined with difficulties in gaining access to refugee camps, could claim thousands of lives in the coming months.