Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Darfur update

KHARTOUM, Sudan (AP) — A surge of truck hijackings threatens to cut off food rations for more than 2 million people in Darfur, the World Food Program said Wednesday, after 22 of its vehicles were attacked and stolen this month alone.

Things just aren't getting much better in Darfur.
With 18 drivers still missing, the U.N. agency said its main contracting companies refuse to send more food convoys into Darfur.

"If the situation continues, we'll be forced to cut rations in parts of Darfur by mid-February," Kenro Oshidari, the head of WFP operations in Sudan, said in a statement.

The increase in violence comes barely three weeks after the United Nations took over peacekeeping in the remote region of western Sudan where 2.5 million people have been chased into refugee camps by five years of war.

Five separate attacks targeted aid workers throughout Darfur just on Tuesday, officials said. Among those were ambushes of two WFP convoys in West Darfur and the detention of five WFP staff when their cars were stolen near the North Darfur state capital of El Fasher.

"They've now been released, but it was pretty traumatic," said Emilia Casella, the WFP spokeswoman in Sudan.

A vehicle from the United Nations security services was also attacked near the West Darfur capital of El Geneina, while an aid group's car was attacked inside the capital, which is under Khartoum government control.

The agency said it didn't know who was behind the latest attacks, which it blamed on "bandits."

Top U.N. aid officials met with the Sudanese government Wednesday to extend by a year the agreement that allows international aid groups to work in Sudan, but the meeting didn't address the increased hijackings.

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