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UN: Sudan Turns Back Team Probing Alleged Mass Rape

FILE - A UNAMID peacekeeper is seen on patrol in Sudan.

United Nations peacekeepers say Sudan's military has denied them access to an area of Darfur where some 200 girls and women were allegedly raped last weekend.

U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric says personnel from the U.N.-African Union mission in Darfur (UNAMID) were turned back at a checkpoint when they tried to go to the North Darfur village of Tabit on Tuesday.

He said peacekeepers want to visit the area.

"The African Union joint U.N. mission in Darfur is calling on the government of Sudan to grant the mission unhindered access to all of Darfur, especially to areas where alleged incidents affecting civilians have been reported, in accordance with the status of forces agreement," said Dujarric.

Radio Dabanga, a station that broadcasts to Darfur, reports that Sudanese government soldiers raped the women in Tabit over an eight-hour period beginning Friday night. The Netherlands-based station - which based its report on a village elder - says the local army commander had ordered Tabit residents to find a soldier who was missing from his garrison.

The station says the same commander visited the village on Monday and tried to apologize for his soldiers' actions, but that Tabit residents rejected the apology.

U.N. spokesman Dujarric says a team from UNAMID visited the Zamzam displaced persons' camp on Wednesday to determine whether Tabit residents had fled there, as reported by a village sheikh. The spokesman said that, after a thorough assessment, the team concluded "that no recent displacement from Tabit had occurred."

He also said UNAMID human rights officers have met with the chief prosecutor of North Darfur, who said that not a single complaint about any rape incident was received from Tabit.

Darfur remains a restive area a decade after the height of the war between Sudan's government and local rebel groups. Low-level fighting continues, and more than two million people remain displaced from their homes.