A town in Darfur near the African Union (AU) peacekeeper base that was attacked last month has been razed and 7,000 residents have fled, according to a UN and AU delegation that visited the town on Saturday.
The joint observation team did not say who was responsible for the destruction, but Suleiman Jamous, a humanitarian coordinator for the Sudan Liberation Army, one of the rebel factions in Darfur, said that the Sudanese Army had attacked the town, Haskanita, and about 100 people had been killed -- an accusation the Sudanese military denied. The observer mission said only a mosque and school in Haskanita remained standing.
The attack on the AU base, which took place on Sept. 29 and left 10 peacekeepers dead, underscored the chaotic nature of the conflict in the Darfur region in western Sudan, where rebels have splintered into many competing factions and the Arab militias aligned with the government have turned on one another as well.
Adding to the confusion, other rebel commanders reported on Monday that the government was bombarding Muhagiriya, a town in south Darfur that is controlled by rebels who signed a peace agreement with the government last year.
The UN and the AU are preparing to hold peace talks in Libya beginning Oct. 27 aimed at brokering a deal between the splintered rebel factions and the Sudanese government. A hybrid force led by the UN and the AU is scheduled to begin deploying this month as negotiators begin their push for a new agreement.
The UN special envoy for Darfur, Jan Eliasson, is in Darfur this week to try to lay the groundwork for the peace talks.