KHARTOUM, Oct 8 (Reuters) Darfur rebel figure Suleiman Jamous said 105 people were killed in the former rebel town of Haskanita, which the army occupied last week following a vicious attack on African Union peacekeepers there.
Jamous, a respected humanitarian coordinator for the Sudan Liberation Army, said the government and allied militia had razed Haskanita in southeast Darfur over a number of days.
The United Nations confirmed the town had been burnt with just the Mosque and school left standing. Most of its 7,000 population had fled.
''Around 105 people killed is the last figure we have,'' Jamous told Reuters today. ''There are many others in the bush who may die of thirst -- they need water,'' he added.
The AU base near Haskanita was attacked and destroyed on Sept. 29 with 10 soldiers killed. The AU asked the government to secure the area while they withdrew, leaving no international observers in the region beset with clashes between the army and rebels.
Sudan's army said a fire, the cause of which was unclear, started in the market and spread to the rest of the town, and said the United Nations had exaggerated the damage.
''There was a fire but it was brought under control,'' an army spokesman said. ''The United Nations have made this into something bigger than it is.'' Rebels and government blame each other for the attack on the AU base. Initially almost 60 peacekeepers went missing. All but one have been found.
AU officials had privately suspected breakaway rebel factions of the attack, the worst since the mission deployed in 2004, but say they are still investigating.
Haskanita had been a rebel-controlled town until the attack on the AU on Sept. 29.
REUTERS PD RK1636