KHARTOUM, Sudan – The Sudanese government denied any involvement in a new wave of violence in the country's western Darfur region that killed over 50 people, saying Sunday that reports on the incident contained "huge amounts of lies" and that outlaws should be blamed for the attacks.
The United Nations on Friday released a report charging the government-allied janjaweed militia for the deadly raids against seven villages and a refugee camp in the Jebel Moon area of West Darfur on Oct 29 and Oct. 30.
The U.N. cited witnesses saying that men clad in Sudanese military officers' garb were with the horse-mounted militia when they attacked, killing at least 27 children and about as many adults.
"At the very least, the attacks demonstrated the government of Sudan's continued failure to disarm militia in Darfur, and at worst its use of militia forces that target civilian populations," said the U.N. report released in Geneva.
Khartoum dismissed the report as disingenuous. "We should be cautious about these reports, circulated by the western media, because they contain huge amounts of lies, manipulation and lack of credibility" Foreign Ministry spokesman Ali Sadeq told the official Sudan News Agency.
Sudan's Arab-dominated government has long denied backing the janjaweed, a militia of Arab nomads blamed for much of the atrocities against ethnic African villagers in Darfur since 2003, when African rebels first took up arms against Khartoum.
More than 200,000 people have since been killed, and 2,5 million chased from their homes.
A May peace agreement between the government and one rebel group has been largely ignored and violence has escalated in recent months, with increased rebel infighting and a large army offensive in the north of the region.
The Foreign Ministry spokesman said that neither the Sudanese army nor regular pro-government paramilitary groups were at present fighting in Darfur, contradicting multiple reports by international observers in Darfur that the army and pro-government militia continue to regularly clash with rebels in the region.
"There are active outlaws in Darfur and it is not fair to accuse the government for all the looting, killing and violence," Sadeq said.
A U.N. Security Council resolution plans to replace an African Union mission that has shown little results in ending Darfur's violence with 20,000 U.N. peacekeepers. But Khartoum opposes the move as "neocolonial."
On Sunday, Mini Minnawi, the rebel chief who signed the peace agreement with Khartoum and has since become a senior assistant to the Sudanese president, said the government must take "appropriate measures" to quell the violence in Darfur if it wants to avert a U.N. presence.