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Darfur beset by another round of violent clashes and banditry, says UN mission

Darfur beset by another round of violent clashes and banditry, says UN mission

A gunman fired shots at African Union (AU) soldiers attempting to bring peace to Darfur, the United Nations Mission in Sudan (UNMIS) said today as it reported on a fresh round of violent clashes and acts of banditry across the war-wracked region.

UNMIS said that an unknown man fired two shots yesterday at a vehicle carrying AU soldiers near Kutum airstrip in North Darfur state. One soldier was struck in the leg while driving, and the gunman escaped.

On Tuesday, 10 armed men forced their way into a camp for internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Tawilla, also in North Darfur, and stole animals. AU soldiers later killed one of the gunmen in an exchange of fire.

In South Darfur, the area around Buram remains inaccessible to humanitarian workers because of continued fighting, UN spokesman Yves Sorokobi told reporters at the daily press briefing in New York.

There have also been continuing clashes between Government forces, allied militias and rebel groups in West Darfur and North Darfur, according to UNMIS, although the number of casualties in either state is unconfirmed.

The clashes and banditry were reported one day after Secretary-General Kofi Annan warned that Darfur is headed for a catastrophe unless the Sudanese Government changes its mind and allows UN peacekeepers to take over from the existing AU operation.

Mr. Annan told a press conference at UN Headquarters that the world faced a “big challenge” to ensure there was not a repeat of the Rwandan genocide of 1994.

“If the African Union forces were to leave, and we are not able to put in a UN follow-on force, we are heading for a disaster, and I don’t think we can allow that to happen, particularly since we only recently passed the ‘Responsibility to Protect’ resolution,” he said.

Last month the Security Council voted to deploy more than 17,000 blue helmets in Darfur, saying it “invites the consent” of the Sudanese Government. But Khartoum has said repeatedly that it is opposed to such a force.