May 5, 2008 / 6:11 PM / 11 years ago

Sudan bombs Darfur school and market, 13 killed

(Adds U.S. special envoy comment in paragraphs 8,9)

By Opheera McDoom

KHARTOUM, May 5 (Reuters) - Sudanese government bombs have hit a primary school and a busy market place in Darfur, killing at least 13 people, including seven children, two aid organisations said on Monday.

The Sudanese army was not immediately available to comment but has repeatedly denied bombing in the area, which would be a violation of a U.N. Security Council resolution banning all offensive flying.

The aid groups said a government Antonov plane bombed the village of Shegeg Karo in North Darfur on Sunday. If confirmed, it would be the deadliest bombing raid in Darfur in years.

"According to information gathered by the villagers of Shegeg Karo, the Antonov hovered for a long time and then bombed repeatedly," a joint statement from Darfur Diaries and the Darfur Peace and Development Organisation said.

"The Shegeg Karo school was hit and one classroom was destroyed. It was in session," it added. The youngest child to die was 5-year-old Yusuf Adam Hamid. It said two other children were seriously wounded and 30 more lightly wounded.

Both organisations fund the primary school of 238 students.

The groups said the market was also hit with six people reported killed and 20 shops destroyed. They said it was unclear how many people were wounded at the market place. Hundreds of women usually gather there on market day.

The U.S. special envoy to Sudan, Richard Williamson, said in Norway where he was attending a Sudan donors conference that the reports were "extremely troubling and unacceptable."

"It is a big concern because if past history is an indication, many of those casualties will be innocent civilians and there will be more people having to flee their homes in an area where already 2.5 million have had to flee because of violence," he told Reuters.

Last week, a joint U.N.-African Union peacekeeping mission confirmed rebel reports of bombing in North Darfur in spite of government denials.



CONDEMNATION

On Monday UNAMID force commander Martin Luther Agwai issued a statement expressing deep concern at the "rising toll of civilian deaths and casualties as a result of the recent bombing of villages in Darfur."

It called the reported bombing raids: "unacceptable acts against civilians, compounding the extent of displacement, insecurity and untold human suffering."

UNAMID said it was mobilising its helicopters to evacuate the injured.

Darfur rebels said three other areas were bombed on Sunday. Ein Sirro and Jabel Medop in North Darfur and an area in West Darfur near rebel-held Jabel Moun. There were no reports of casualties.

International experts estimate some 200,000 people have died and 2.5 million been driven from their homes in five years of revolt in Darfur. Khartoum blames the Western media for exaggerating the conflict and puts the death toll at 10,000.

Deployment of the peacekeeping force, set to become the world’s biggest, has been slow.

A May 2006 peace deal was signed by one of three rebel negotiating factions. But little has been done to implement the deal while insecurity has worsened because of infighting between rebel factions.

Minni Arcua Minnawi, a former rebel who signed the 2006 and became a presidential assistant, said he was suspending participation in the government for one day in protest at the lack of political will from President Omar Hassan al-Bashir’s government.

"The government is not serious and not committed to the peace deal," said a Minnawi spokesman, al-Tayyib Khamis.

Sudan is asking donor nations meeting in Norway this week for $6 billion over the next three years to help rebuild after decades of civil wars. A 2005 peace deal ended war between north and south, but did not cover Darfur. (Editing by Richard Balmforth)



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