Sudan stages new Darfur airstrikes

AFP , Wednesday 18 May 2011

New airstrikes in Darfur alarm the UN, which calls for restraint on all sides while limiting its operations

Sudanese government warplanes have staged new air strikes in Darfur, prompting the United Nations to halt flights in the stricken region, UN officials said Wednesday.

The UN mission in Darfur, UNAMID, said in a statement that warplanes on Tuesday hit the village of Sukamir, which is near Kuma, about 100 kilometres (60 miles) north of the main Darfur city of El-Fasher.

That air attack came two days after a strike in the south of the conflict-stricken region, where the UN says more than 300,000 people have died since an uprising started in 2003.

"The team will attempt to collect information on possible casualties and newly displaced persons," according to the statement, which said UNAMID peacekeepers were trying to get to Sukamir.

UN flights to the regions of Shangil Tobaya, Fanga Suk and neighbouring regions in North Darfur have been suspended, "due to government officials citing security concerns," said the mission.

Meanwhile, restrictions on the movement of aid groups have led to the cancellation of a number of humanitarian missions in South Darfur, the mission added.

Sudanese warplanes on Sunday bombed the town of Labado and the village of Esheraya in southern Darfur, according to the UN. Casualty numbers could not be given as the mission had not been given access to the Labado region. Ibrahim Gambari, the UNAMID head, expressed concern over the air strikes.

"I call upon all parties to exercise the utmost restraint in the use of lethal force," he said.

Non-government groups and UN agencies operating in South Sudan were told Tuesday by the Sudanese government that they would be limited to a zone of 15 kilometres (10 miles) around the town of Nyala, UNAMID said.

At least 1.8 million people fled their homes since the Darfur conflict erupted between rebels and the Khartoum regime, the UN says. The government puts the death toll at 10,000.

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