Darfur Town Destroyed in Retaliatory Attack
KHARTOUM, Sudan – A Darfur town under the control of Sudanese troops has been razed, the U.N. said Sunday. The destruction of the town was in apparent retaliation for a suspected rebel attack on a nearby African Union peacekeeping base.
The town of Haskanita "which is currently under the control of the government, was completely burned down, except for a few buildings," the U.N. mission to Sudan said in a statement.
The U.N. did not say who set fire to the town but said Sudanese government forces took control of the area last week after suspected Darfur rebels attacked the nearby AU base a week ago, killing 10 peacekeepers.
U.N. officials said the burning began Wednesday but observers were unable to obtain firsthand confirmation until Sunday.
"The market area had been looted," the U.N. statement said. It said most civilians had fled after the Sept. 29 attack on the base took place Sept. 29 but a few had returned to search for food and water.
The Sudanese military had no immediate comment. The African Union said it couldn't comment on the burning of the town since it had evacuated the area around Haskanita last Sunday.
The attack on the peacekeepers' camp was the bloodiest against the undermanned and ill-equipped African Union mission and threw into peril peace talks between the Sudanese government and rebels set for this month in Tripoli, Libya.
Sudanese soldiers regained control of the camp shortly after it was overrun.
Several international observers disputed claims by local rebel chiefs that about 100 civilians had been killed in the destruction of Haskanita.
An Associated Press reporter who visited Haskanita last Sunday saw several smoldering villages during a flight to the area.
Government forces and its allied janjaweed militia of Arab nomads have been accused of burning ethnic African villages as part of their counterinsurgency campaign against rebels.