Darfur town burned down by rebels


Nairobi : The town of Haskanita in Sudan’s western region of Darfur was burned to the ground a week after an attack there on an African Union base that killed 10 peacekeepers.

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The town under government control “was completely burned down, except for a few buildings”, and the business district around the market was looted, the UN mission in Sudan said Sunday.

Civilians fled Haskanita in the wake of the Sep 29 attack on the peacekeepers, but a few had since returned looking for food, the United Nations added.

It did not name who was responsible for the fire and looting in the southern Darfur town once home to 7,000 people, but Haskanita has been under the control of government troops since the attack on the peacekeepers. The rebels said they were responsible.

Nigeria said that despite the seven peacekeepers it lost in last month’s attack, it planned to send an additional 600 soldiers to Darfur. They are to be dispatched soon, General Azubuike Inhejrika was quoted as saying in Monday’s edition of Nigeria’s This Day newspaper.

The African Union, which began its peacekeeping mission in Darfur in 2003, has 7,000 soldiers there. The head of its force, General Martin Luther Agwai, warned after the rebel attack that his peacekeepers were outmanned and outgunned.

Its soldiers were to be joined by UN peacekeepers at the beginning of next year to make up a force 26,000 strong.

The violence in Haskanita came ahead of peace talks that are planned to begin Oct 27 in Libya to find ways to end the conflict between the Sudanese government and the country’s rebel groups that has killed more than 200,000 people and displaced 2.5 million since 2003.

Agwai blamed a splinter rebel group for the attack on the peacekeepers, which was roundly condemned by rebel leaders.