KHARTOUM (Reuters) - Darfur rebels accused the government of bombing South Darfur on Thursday, the latest attack in an aerial campaign that has driven thousands of people from their homes over the past month.
“There is aerial bombardment on a daily basis -- bombing by MiG 29 and by Antonov (in South Darfur),” Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) commander Abdel Aziz el-Nur Ashr said.
Ashr said 20,000 people in the area south west of Adila town near the eastern border of Darfur had fled their homes to the bush without access to clean water during the fighting which has been ongoing for the past month.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who has deplored the recent surge in violence as “simply unacceptable”, is due to arrive in Khartoum on Monday as part of a tour which he said aimed to lay the foundations for lasting peace in Darfur.
Ban has condemned government bombardment in South Darfur as a violation of a U.N. Security Council resolution.
Speaking ahead of his trip, he said he would press the Sudanese government to support a joint United Nations and African Union peacekeeping force due to go to Darfur, adding the mission was doomed without Khartoum’s cooperation.
Ashr said bombers attacked again in South Darfur early on Thursday. The army was not immediately available to comment.
On Wednesday JEM and Sudan Liberation Movement (SLM) forces attacked an army base in Wad Banda, in the Kordofan region next to Darfur. They said was the logistical and supply centre for ongoing attacks in South Darfur.
The rebels said 15 soldiers were killed.
“We are still controlling the military camp,” Ashr told Reuters by telephone. “We have four injured and three killed.”
The army denied on Wednesday there was an army base in Wad Banda and said rebels had attacked the town but that government troops had them surrounded. Ashr said on Thursday the army was nowhere in sight.
The African Union peacekeeping force, struggling to defend itself, has declared the area no-go, making it difficult to verify facts.
The fighting comes just days before Ban starts a multi-state visit to try to set a timetable to revive peace talks between the government and rebels after a May 2006 deal faltered.
It was signed by only one rebel group and neither side has made good on all its commitments under the agreement.
International experts estimate 200,000 people have died since mostly non-Arab rebels took up arms in early 2003 accusing central government of neglecting the region.
Khartoum mobilized mostly Arab militias to quell the revolt, which has created what aid agencies call one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises and what Washington calls genocide.
The Sudanese government denies the charge and says 9,000 people have died in Darfur.
A joint U.N.-AU peacekeeping force of up to 26,000 troops and police will take over from the African Union. But the retiring U.N. police chief said on Thursday major Western nations must offer more police for the mission.
“The countries that have been talking about Darfur need to now do something about Darfur with their deployment of police in probably the most desperate place in the world,” Mark Kroeker, an American, told reporters in Australia.
The U.N. emergency relief coordinator John Holmes told the BBC that camps in Darfur, housing some 2 million people who fled their homes during the 4-1/2 year conflict, were becoming militarized and politicized.
But he denied the camps had become rebel bases. Last week the Sudanese military attacked Kalma Camp in South Darfur, where it said rebels behind deadly attacks on police were hiding.
Additional reporting by Mary Gabriel in London and James Grubel in Canberra