Sudan gov't, militia forces raze Darfur town-rebels

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CAIRO, Oct 5 (Reuters) Sudanese government forces and militia groups razed a town in central Darfur where African Union soldiers were attacked, rebel leaders said today, adding the troops were also threatening to raid a nearby town.

Sudan's army and Darfur rebel movements blame each other for last week's assault on the AU base in Haskanita in which 10 African Union soldiers were killed -- the worst attack on AU troops since they deployed in Sudan.

today rebel leaders said at least 100 people have been killed and thousands displaced in Haskanita since Wednesday by the Sudanese army and pro-government Janjaweed militia forces.

The figures could not be verified and Sudanese military spokesmen could not be reached for comment. AU forces have evacuated the area.

''They have burned down the whole village, not leaving a single hut,'' Abdel Aziz el-Nur Ashr, commander of the rebel Justice and Equality Movement (JEM), told Reuters by telephone.

''Not less than 100 have been killed.'' As of today morning, government forces were still burning and looting parts of Haskanita, said Bahr Idriss Abu Garda, leader of a breakaway faction of JEM.

About 800 government and Janjaweed militia soldiers were moving toward the town of Andrav, 10 kilometres (6.2 miles) from Haskanita, Ashr said.

''They are on their way to attack Andrav and they could reach it by evening,'' he said.

International experts estimate some 200,000 people have died in Darfur with 2.5 million driven from their homes. Mostly non-Arab rebels took up arms in early 2003 accusing central government of neglect.

Washington calls the conflict genocide, a term Khartoum rejects and European governments are reluctant to use. Khartoum puts the death toll at 9,000.

The ongoing violence is likely to cast a shadow over UN-AU mediated peace talks due to start on Oct. 27 in Libya.

A joint UN-AU peacekeeping force with 26,000 police and soldiers is due to deploy next year to absorb the AU's 7,000 peacekeepers.


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