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ICC NOTE: As Khartoum promises to disarm the Janjaweed, attacks in West Darfur increase. Sixty-three people died, half of them children.

Militias kill 63 in Darfur

Reuters

Fri Nov 3, 2006

By Opheera McDoom

Attacks in West Darfur have killed at least 63 people, half of them children, as rebels on Friday accused Khartoum of remobilizing Arab militia after suffering two military defeats on the Sudan-Chad border.

“The government have begun mobilizing the Janjaweed widely, especially in West Darfur , because they want to clear the area and move north along the border and defeat us,” said Bahr Idriss Abu Garda, a leader of the National Redemption Front (NRF).

Rebels from the NRF alliance said of the 63 dead, 33 were children. The United Nations said 27 of those were under 12 and urged the government to protect civilians.

A struggling African Union force, monitoring a widely ignored peace deal, said up to 92 people may have been killed in the attack on October 29 on at least four villages in the Jabel Moun area, where rebel and government forces are present.

AU soldiers said the government was also bombing regularly in the area around and north of Tine town on the Sudan-Chad border. The last bombardment was on October 23.

Sudanese officials deny the reports saying they have not mobilized Arab militia and the army denies using its Antonov planes, which would be a violation of a U.N. Security Council resolution.

Experts estimate 200,000 people have been killed and 2.5 million forced from their homes in 3-1/2 years of revolt in Darfur . Mostly non-Arab rebels took up arms accusing central government of neglect.

Khartoum turned to militias, known locally as Janjaweed and mainly from Arab tribes, to quell the revolt. Those militia stand accused of a widespread campaign of rape, murder and looting, which Washington calls genocide.

The government denies genocide but the International Criminal Court is investigating alleged war crimes in Darfur .

10,000 DEAD

Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir on Friday indicated the toll in Darfur had been exaggerated saying only 10,000 people had died in western Sudan .

At a news conference in Beijing where he was attending a summit of African leaders, he reiterated that he would not allow U.N. forces into Darfur , despite a U.N. resolution authorizing 22,000 U.N. troops to replace AU peacekeepers.

“We decided that with such an army moving into our country, the impact is going to be the same as what’s been happening in Iraq ,” Bashir said.

China , which has close business and diplomatic ties to Sudan , is a veto-wielding member of the Security Council and has been accused by human rights groups of protecting Sudan against any strong action over Darfur .

But at the Beijing meeting, Chinese President Hu Jintao appeared to be nudging Bashir toward accommodation.

“The Darfur issue is again at a critical juncture,” Chinese State television quoted him saying on Thursday.

An AU-brokered peace deal in May signed by the government and one of three rebel negotiating factions has seen little implementation. A government plan to disarm the Janjaweed by October 22 has not occurred and a new rebel alliance renewed hostilities with the government.