Thursday, October 12, 2006

Darfur refugees live in fear of militias

Associated Press

FATA BORNO, Sudan - The small patrol of African Union peacekeepers were struggling with two stranded cars near this Darfur refugee camp when the Arab militiamen sped by in trucks, shouting and brandishing weapons. They were the Janjaweed, the fierce militiamen accused of raping and murdering African villagers and turning western Sudan's Darfur region into one of the world's gravest humanitarian crises.

The incident - witnessed Wednesday by a reporter for The Associated Press - shows how little the Janjaweed fear the understaffed and underfunded African Union peacekeeping force, which is supposed to monitor a cease-fire and protect civilians here.

Sudan has refused to allow the United Nations to send in peacekeepers to replace the AU force and protect civilians.

In the Wednesday incident, a half-dozen pickup trucks mounted with heavy machine guns rumbled past the small African Union peacekeeping patrol as it struggled to pull the stranded cars from a sandy riverbed.

Inside the trucks, about 50 young Arab militiamen brandished weapons such as rocket-propelled grenade launchers and automatic rifles. As they rode past, the fighters - most of them appearing to be excitable teens with scarves masking their faces - shouted and shook their fists at the stranded peacekeepers.

Janjaweed militiamen are streaming into this northern part of Darfur to support Sudanese government troops battling rebels in a new and intense outbreak of fighting. Read more >>>

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