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Death Toll Rises to 34 in Darfur Camp Attack

The death toll in a murderous assault on a camp and nearby villages in the Darfur region of western Sudan has risen to 34, the UN refugee agency UNHCR said Saturday.

In a statement received here, UNHCR said it sent a team to the Aro Sharow camp which learned more details about Wednesday's attack by a large group of armed men riding horses and camels.

The attack on the Aro Sharow camp on Wednesday, the first reported on a center for internally displaced people in Darfur, involved 250-300 armed militia men on horses and camels, the UNHCR said.

"The UNHCR team reported Friday that many of the 4,000 to 5,000 residents of the camp had returned from the nearby Jebel Moon mountains and surrounding countryside where they initially fled as the horsemen swooped into the camp, killing residents and burning down their makeshift shelters, on Wednesday afternoon," the statement said.

It said an agency team on the ground had established that 17 camp residents and 17 others from nearby villages who had been in the area for market day had been killed.

"The UNHCR team witnessed the burial of one of the 34 dead and said the man appeared to have had his arms bound before he was killed. Witnesses in the camp said he had been tied up and dragged to his death behind a horse," it said.

The attack follows a series of worrisome security incidents throughout the region.

UNHCR is concerned that the deterioration in security is preventing the provision of vital aid to tens of thousands of internally displaced people in Darfur and could prompt them to flee again -- possibly to neighboring Chad, which is already struggling to cope with more than 200,000 refugees from Sudan.

Fighting erupted in Darfur in early 2003 when rebels took up arms against the Khartoum government.

They accused the government of backing militias that have driven local farmers from their villages.

Thousands have been killed and more than two million people are living in camps, mostly inside Darfur, roughly the size of France. 

Clashes have continued in Darfur despite the rebels and Khartoum signing a ceasefire. Little progress has been made in peace talks.

(Xinhua News Agency October 2, 2005)

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