October 6, 2008 / 12:23 PM / 11 years ago

Peacekeepers protect Darfur camp amid attack fears

KHARTOUM (Reuters) - Peacekeepers on Monday said they had sent reinforcements to guard a volatile camp for displaced Darfuris after reports of accusations that Sudanese government forces might be preparing an attack.

But Sudan’s armed forces denied any plans to attack Kalma camp, home to around 90,000 people who have fled more than five years of fighting in Sudan’s remote west.

The U.N.-African Union UNAMID force said it would carry out 24-hour patrols of Kalma camp, “as a result of recent alleged threats of an attack on the camp by the Government of Sudan Forces.”

Force spokesman Kemal Saiki did not go into detail about the source of the threats.

More than 30 Kalma residents were killed when soldiers and armed police raided the camp in August, saying they were searching for weapons and suspects.

Tensions rose again in the camp last week when Sudanese interior ministry officials accused camp residents of shooting down a UNAMID-contracted helicopter, killing all four people on board.

Aid sources, speaking on condition of anonymity, said there were growing fears authorities would use the investigation into the helicopter crash as an excuse to raid the camp again.

But a spokesman for Sudan’s armed forces told Reuters: “There is no possibility of any attack on this camp by the armed forces, or on any other camp in Darfur.”

The Sudanese government has long said Kalma has become a base and weapon store for bandits and rebel groups.

Rebels and camp activists have denied the accusation, saying the government is trying to clear the camp as part of a forced resettlement program.

The growing tension at Kalma comes at a sensitive time for Khartoum which is stepping up diplomatic efforts to block a move by the International Criminal Court to indict Sudan’s president for war crimes in Darfur.

State media on Monday reported high-level delegations were holding talks with “senior officials” in Britain and France, permanent members of the U.N. Security Council with the power to veto any attempt to delay the global court’s action.

International experts say five years of fighting in Darfur has killed 200,000 people and driven 2.5 million to flee to camps like Kalma. Khartoum puts the death toll at 10,000.

Editing by Matthew Tostevin

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