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New Violence in Darfur Region of Sudan Reported - 2004-08-09

U.N. workers in the Darfur region of Sudan continue to report violent attacks against internally displaced people. Officials remain hopeful that Sudan will comply with a new agreement that creates safe havens where militia activity is prohibited.

U.N. spokesman Fred Eckhard says men suspected to be members of the Arab Janjaweed militia, attacked 35 families in north Darfur on Saturday. He says U.N. staffers in the region report that attacks against black Sudanese residents, tactics that are apparently supported by the Sudanese government, are also ongoing in south Darfur.

"Reports continue of attacks by armed men on horses and camels, supported by uniformed men and military vehicles, in south Darfur," he said.

Mr. Eckhard says some Sudanese villagers who are living in makeshift camps are being offered the equivalent of $400 by Sudanese authorities as incentive to move back to their homes. So far, he says, they have refused. Many women have reported being raped and attacked when they leave their camps in search of supplies.

More than one million people have been forced to leave their homes due to the violence, which began almost a year and-a-half ago. An estimated 50 thousand people, mostly black Sudanese civilians, are estimated to have died. Sudanese officials deny they are behind the violence.

Over the weekend, the United Nations and Sudanese officials agreed to a plan of action that would bar militia activity in certain "safe haven" areas within 30 days.

Sudanese Foreign Minister Mustafa Osman Ismail told reporters in Cairo he believes the government will be able to meet its obligations.

"We are not the initiator of the problems in Darfur," he said. "We are not the party, which started the fighting. But, still, we feel that we can do it. We are doing our best. We succeeded in certain areas. We think we will succeed in the other areas."

Secretary General Kofi Annan said in a statement he is counting on the Sudanese government to show what he called "substantive and verifiable progress" toward protecting the people of Darfur.

The Security Council has demanded that Sudan show it is taking steps to disarm the Janjaweed militia by the end of this month, or face possible sanctions.