Sunday, October 22, 2006

Sudan masses its troops for a decisive strike on Darfur

By Gethin Chamberlain in El Fasher, North Darfur

The soldier pushed at the bomb with his foot, rolling it through the dust towards the white Russian-built Antonov aircraft standing on the runway of El Fasher airport.

The plane was being loaded for another bombing run, as Sudanese government forces gear up for a military onslaught when Ramadan ends today or tomorrow.
Crude but effective, the Antonovs are back in the air over the villages of Darfur, just as they were during the initial pogroms that killed hundreds of thousands and displaced more than two million. When they reach their targets, the soldiers lower the ramps and kick out the bombs – which look like munitions used in the Second World War – to explode on those below.

New arrivals at the El Salaam camp outside Fasher, the capital of North Darfur, describe how the Antonovs and helicopter gunships attacked their villages, forcing them to flee.

"I saw about 10 bombs falling," said Adam Ishag, who fled his village of Hila Babkeir after it came under attack. "They exploded beside the houses and two were destroyed. We took the children and we ran away."

The troubled western region of Sudan is entering a new and dangerous period. The Darfur Peace Agreement, signed in the Nigerian capital Abuja in May, largely at the urging of the international community, is widely perceived to have failed. Fighting has escalated and the rebel groups, which splintered acrimoniously after the signing, are once again looking to present a united front. Read more >>>

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