Darfur official denies report Sudan government bombed northern village

KHARTOUM, Sudan - The governor of North Darfur state said reports that a Sudanese government plane bombed villagers last week were fabricated by foreigners, according to the official news agency Sunday.

Darfur rebels appealed Sunday to the African Union, which has truce monitors in the western region, to send more troops to stop government forces from attacking civilians. The request came as African leaders met in Nigeria to discuss ways of tackling conflicts, poverty and disease.

The United Nations, citing African Union observers at the scene, said Friday that the Sudanese air force bombed civilians in the village of Shangil Tobaya in North Darfur state, killing or wounding nearly 100 people. U.N. officials said it was one of the most serious violations of a cease-fire signed last year by the government and Darfur rebels.

Osman Mohamed Yusuf Kibir, the governor of North Darfur state, denied the allegations in a statement carried by the Sudan News Agency.

"We personally went there ... and the people in the area were surprised as to the lies diffused by the organizations and the Western media," he was quoted as saying.

Aid workers based in Shangil Tobaya, 40 miles south of El Fasher, said they saw bombs exploding on the ground Wednesday afternoon and an air force Antonov circling overhead. Later Wednesday, the African Union, which has 1,400 cease-fire monitors and protection troops in Darfur, confirmed the bombing, calling it a "major violation" of the truce.

The Sudanese government often has been accused of employing its air force against civilians in Darfur, and it usually denies the allegations. However, it is rare an air strike is confirmed by the African Union.

Fighting in the area around Shangil Tobaya has displaced more than 10,000 people during the past two weeks, according to U.N. figures. The violence has been a blow to hopes that the momentum from a peace accord in a separate Sudan conflict could help produce a settlement in Darfur.

On Jan. 9, the Khartoum-based government signed a peace agreement with the Sudan People's Liberation Army to end 22 years of civil war in southern Sudan.


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