US ‘extremely concerned’ by Darfur attacks

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The US State Department is “extremely concerned” by reports that Sudan government forces have launched an offensive against rebels in Darfur, displacing and injuring civilians and forcing the evacuation of humanitarian groups, a spokesperson said.

Hundreds of civilians are feared dead in fighting between the Sudanese army and rebels in the turbulent Darfur region, a UN source told Reuters on Monday, though a Sudan army spokesman denied any fighting in the mountainous Jabel Marra region and accused rebels of attacking local residents.
“The United States urges the Government of Sudan and SLA/AW (the Sudan Liberation Army/Abdel Wahid) to refrain from further violence and to allow the Joint African Union-United Nations Mission in Darfur access to Jebel Marra to assess the humanitarian situation and restore stability,” department spokesperson Philip Crowley said in a statement yesterday.

Crowley said Washington is “extremely concerned about reports that Government of Sudan forces are conducting offensive operations against … (SLA/AW) positions in the Jebel Marra area of Darfur that have reportedly caused significant civilian casualties, displacement, and the evacuation of humanitarian organizations.”

Reports of clashes throughout last week have marred Khartoum’s announcement of a new peace push in the region and come just over a month ahead of national elections.

Crowley said a February 20 ceasefire signed by the Sudanese government and the Justice and Equality Movement offers a chance to reduce violence in Darfur but needs to be broadened to include other groups.
“We see any violence on the ground as undermining the spirit of the peace process,” Crawley said. He also called on all parties to commit to the peace process mediated by the United Nations and the African Union.

Pic: SLA rebels

Source: www.af.reuters.com