Darfuri attack victims receive first aid after a month

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KHARTOUM, Nov 6 (Reuters) International aid workers have delivered the first assistance to Darfuris who fled their southeast Darfur town last month after a massive attack on African Union peacekeepers, aid officials said today.

The International Committee for the Red Cross said many civilians who fled fighting in Haskanita town have been surviving under trees with no shelter.

African Union soldiers abandoned their base near Haskanita town, south east Darfur after an attack blamed on rebels on September 30 that killed 10 AU soldiers and injured a dozen more.

The town was left under government control.

A week later UN officials confirmed Haskanita town had been razed and all the inhabitants were gone. The army said a fire in the market had caused the destruction.

The ICRC said during a 10-day mission they had distributed aid and repaired five water sources for 15,000 people -- 5,560 who were displaced and those living in the nearby villages who were supporting some of the victims.

''This distribution is the first aid these dispossessed families have received since they had to leave Haskanita a month ago,'' said Daniel MuInoz-Rojas, an ICRC official in Sudan.

''Many of them had no shelter and were living under trees.

The operation also benefits the host communities, who have been supporting the displaced people for a month now.'' International experts estimate some 200,000 people have died and 2.5 million driven from their homes in 4-1/2 years of revolt in Darfur. Rebels took up arms accusing Khartoum of neglecting the remote, vast region.

The attack at the end of September was the worst attack on the AU peacekeepers since they deployed in 2004. Despite having grown to 7,000 troops and police, the force has been unable to stem the violence in Darfur and struggled to protect itself.

Khartoum agreed to allow a 26,000-strong joint UN-AU force to absorb the AU mission, but has stalled approving the composition of the troops. UN officials said Khartoum objected to some infantry pledged by non-African countries.

Southern Darfur has seen heavy tribal clashes as well as fighting between rebels and pro-government militia in recent months, creating a chaotic and dangerous security situation.

''The commitment of the Sudanese authorities and the relevant Darfur opposition groups guaranteed the ICRC safe access and ensured that the operation proceeded smoothly,'' ICRC said in the statement.

REUTERS NC KP2349

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