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U.N. report: Darfur attacks broke human rights law

  • Story Highlights
  • Report: January through February, Sudanese forces killed 115 people in Darfur
  • Helicopter gunships and fixed-wing aircraft targeted the villages while ,
  • Armed militias -- Janjaweed -- rode in to force about 30,000 people from their homes
  • Report: Attacks "amount to violations of international ... human rights law"
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(CNN) -- Attacks in January and February by Sudanese forces on Darfur villagers are described in a U.N. report as "violations of international humanitarian and human rights law."

Between January and February, Sudanese forces killed 115 people -- including women, children and elderly -- in air and ground attacks on four Darfur villages, according to the report.

Prepared by the United Nations-African Union Mission in Darfur, the report says attacks in January and February point to a deliberate plan to destroy civilian infrastructure.

Helicopter gunships and fixed-wing aircraft targeted the villages while armed militias rode in on horses and camels to force about 30,000 people from their homes, according to the report.

The attacks were "carried out during a major military push by the Sudanese government to regain control of West Darfur's northern corridor, and drive out an insurgent group," it said.

The village of Saraf Jidad, Sudan, was attacked three times in January, while the villages of Sirbal, Silea and Abu Suruj were attacked within hours of each other on February 8, UNAMID said in the report.

The militias and the Sudanese armed forces looted, vandalized and burned homes, schools, shops, community centers and other buildings in the villages, the report said.

Sometimes, buildings were burned with people inside, it said.

The attacks "amount to violations of international humanitarian and human rights law," they said.

"The scale of destruction of civilian property, including objects indispensable for the survival of the civilian population, suggests that the damage was a deliberate and integral part of a military strategy."

The Sudanese government had no immediate response. However, last week, Sudanese President Omar el-Bashir accused the international media of "exaggerating" the situation in Darfur to detract from atrocities in Iraq, the Palestinian territories and Somalia.

He said the crisis in Darfur is a "media fabrication" and that in most of the region there is little or no conflict and people are living normal lives, he said.

Citing Sudanese government statistics, el-Bashir said fewer than 10,000 people have died in the conflict and fewer than 500,000 have been displaced.

International figures, including U.N. data, put the death toll in Darfur at 200,000, with another 2.5 million people displaced.

The conflict began five years ago when ethnic African tribesmen took up arms, complaining of decades of neglect and discrimination by the Sudanese government.

Sudan's Arab-dominated government is accused of responding by unleashing tribal militias known as Janjaweed, which have allegedly committed the worst atrocities against Darfur's local communities.

Rebels fighting the government-backed militias have also been accused by the United Nations of widespread human rights abuses. El-Bashir rejects claims that the Darfur conflict is being fought along ethnic lines.

At the start of this year, more than 9,000 UNAMID peacekeeping troops were deployed to the region to address the fighting and humanitarian suffering. Plans are for the force to eventually number 26,000. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

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