KHARTOUM — International peacekeepers in Sudan's Darfur region said Thursday they have received reports of alleged aerial bombing that forced villagers to flee, adding to an upsurge of violence in the vast region.
Peacekeepers based in Shangil Tobay on Tuesday saw people arriving at the Nifasha camp for displaced people, said Christopher Cycmanick of the African Union-United Nations Mission in Darfur (UNAMID).
"Apparently they said they fled due to bombings in the area from 3-6 August," he told AFP.
The new arrivals reported that they escaped from the Dolma area and surrounding villages, about 25 kilometres (16 miles) from Shangil Tobay, south of the North Darfur state capital El Fasher.
Cycmanick said the government denied access to UNAMID peacekeepers who tried to reach the area.
Sudan's army spokesman, Sawarmi Khaled Saad, said the military did not have "an active operation" in the area, where rebels of the Sudan Liberation Army's Minni Minnawi faction are active.
The military uses "all means that allow it to protect civilians from the rebels," he said.
In a report last month, Small Arms Survey, a Swiss-based independent research project, said the Darfur conflict "continues to be characterised by aerial bombardment... in support of ground operations against rebel forces themselves and, in some cases, deliberately targeting civilian settlements believed to be supportive or identified with rebel forces."
This occurs despite a UN Security Council ban on offensive military flights, it said.
A new spurt of unrest in Darfur since last week saw security forces shoot dead eight protesters in the South Darfur city of Nyala, and troops deployed in the North Darfur town of Kutum where eight people died during looting and other violence.
Rebels drawn from black African tribes rose against the Arab-dominated Khartoum government in 2003.
Clashes with government troops, banditry and inter-ethnic fighting continue in the region but violence is much less than at its peak nearly a decade ago.
The UN says about 1.7 million people are still living in camps in Darfur.
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