13.10.2005 - 18:12
By Opheera McDoom
KHARTOUM (Reuters) - The United Nations is to evacuate some staff from Sudan's West Darfur state because of an increase in violence, a spokeswoman said on Thursday.
It was not clear how many people would initially be evacuated. But U.N. spokeswoman Radhia Achouri said only core staff would remain in the main town el-Geneina.
"It's a precautionary measure because of the violence," she said.
Aid workers were already confined to el-Geneina as all roads out have been closed to travel because of banditry and clashes throughout the state, she said.
U.N. officials said on Wednesday the violence had hindered aid access to 650,000 refugees in South and West Darfur states, two of Darfur's three states.
On Saturday, a 6,000-strong African Union force deployed to monitor a shaky cease-fire in Darfur suffered its first casualties in the region in an ambush in South Darfur.
The AU said on Thursday it had found the bodies of two soldiers missing after the attack, bringing the total killed in the ambush to six.
British aid agency Oxfam said it could not access any of its West Darfur camps by road and were concerned fuel for water pumps could run out, leaving tens of thousands of refugees without access to water.
Non-Arab rebels took up arms in early 2003 accusing Khartoum of neglect and of monopolising power and wealth.
Khartoum responded by mobilising mostly Arab militias, who stand accused of a campaign of rape, killing and looting.
Tens of thousands have been killed and more than 2 million forced from their homes in the Darfur violence, which the United States called genocide.
Khartoum denies genocide but the International Criminal Court is investigating alleged war crimes there.
TWO BODIES FOUND
AU spokesman Noureddine Mezni said the bodies of two Nigerian soldiers missing in Saturday's ambush had been found.
It brought the death toll to six -- four Nigerian AU soldiers and two civilian contractors.
"We found the bodies of the two missing and we have two other soldiers killed in the attack and two civilian workers," Mezni told Reuters.
Four soldiers were injured in the attack, which the AU blamed on the main rebel group, the Sudan Liberation Army (SLA).
The AU had previously said one of them had died from his injuries, but on Thursday said that report was incorrect.
A day after the attack, 38 AU personnel were abducted in the Chadian-Sudanese border town of Tine. They were rescued after a battle between rival rebel factions, but the rebels warned the AU not to enter their areas.
The rebel factions are demanding a seat at AU-sponsored peace talks in the Nigerian capital Abuja.
Two main rebel groups, the SLA and the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) are represented at the talks, which have been plagued by fighting on the ground and rebel divisions.