Weekend violence in Darfur complicates peace talks

Sunday, October 9, 2005

On Sunday, armed men kidnapped eighteen African Union personnel (including military observers and civilian police) in the war-torn Darfur region of Sudan. According to AU commission spokesperson Adam Thiam, "They were taken by a dissident group of Jem." The Justice and Equality Movement, or Jem, is an Islamic rebel force deeply involved in the ongoing conflict in the region.

One day earlier two AU personnel and two civilians were killed in an attack believed to be perpetrated by the Sudan Liberation Army. A third soldier injured in the attack succumbed to his injuries on Sunday. Additionally, two personnel are missing and three others were injured.

According to the AU, those who survived identified the attackers' vehicles and uniforms as belonging to the SLA.

Both rebel groups have been in conflict with the Sudanese government and its Arab militia (referred to as Janjaweed) since 2003, although the roots of the violence stretch back to the first and second Sudanese Civil Wars. Since the conflict began it is said that 180,000 people have been killed and 2 million have been forced to flee from their homes. The term genocide has been applied to the conflict although this has been hotly contested. The United Nations has come under intense criticism for refusing to refer to it as a genocide, something the United States has done. The International Criminal Court is investigating alleged war-crimes in the region, although the Sudanese government denies the allegations.

6,000 African Union troops have been dispatched to monitor a ceasefire between the opposing forces, and these latest attacks come on the heels of another round of peace talks. Although both sides have expressed optimism, the AU contends that progress is slow and blames divisions within the Sudan Liberation Army for holding up progress.

The AU has also accused the government of continuing attacks on villages and refugee camps. The Khartoum government denies this.


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