Joint UNAfrican team finds North Darfur villages deserted after earlier clashes

28 March 2011A joint United Nations-African Union fact-finding mission to several villages in North Darfur that saw fighting earlier this month between Sudanese Government forces and rebels has found them almost entirely deserted. At least two of the five villages, which lie within 15 to 30 kilometres of Shangil Tobaya, had been completely abandoned, according to an update issued by the joint UN-AU peacekeeping mission in Darfur (UNAMID).The mission said the residents of the five villages were among the 70,000 people displaced by fighting between Government and rebel forces earlier this month.The fact-finding team, led by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), UNAMID and the North Darfur Humanitarian Aid Commission, also observed numerous remnants of explosions. It plans to return to the area for further investigations in the coming days.UNAMID has repeatedly urged both Government forces and rebel movements to ensure safe access for humanitarian groups to displaced persons in Shangil Tobaya, as well as Khor Abeche and Shaeria, where thousands have fled to the mission’s nearby team sites after fighting in January.The mission was set up three years ago to quell the violence in Darfur, where at least 300,000 people have been killed and 2.7 million others driven from their homes as a result of fighting.

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