Bashir re­jects ‘lies’ about Dar­fur chem­i­cal at­tacks

Chronicle (Zimbabwe) - - Worldwide -

KHAR­TOUM — Pres­i­dent Omar al-Bashir on Satur­day ac­cused Amnesty In­ter­na­tional of spread­ing “lies” that Su­danese govern­ment forces had used chem­i­cal weapons against civil­ians in war-torn Dar­fur.

Last month, Amnesty said in a re­port that Su­danese forces had car­ried out more than 30 sus­pected chem­i­cal weapons at­tacks in a moun­tain­ous area of Dar­fur that killed up to 250 peo­ple, in­clud­ing many chil­dren.

“In the past few days you have been fol­low­ing all the lies and al­le­ga­tions made by Amnesty In­ter­na­tional about use of chem­i­cal weapons,” Bashir said in an ad­dress to work­ers of his Na­tional Congress Party.

“These are just empty lies,” Bashir said in his first re­ac­tion to Amnesty’s re­port.

The rights group ac­cused Su­danese forces of “the re­peated use” of sus­pected chem­i­cal weapons against civil­ians in Dar­fur’s re­mote and thickly forested Jebel Marra area be­tween Jan­uary and Septem­ber.

“Be­tween 200 and 250 peo­ple may have died as a re­sult of ex­po­sure to the chem­i­cal weapons agents, with many or most be­ing chil­dren,” Amnesty said.

The nearly 100-page re­port con­tained grue­some pho­to­graphs of chil­dren suf­fer­ing from ap­par­ent chem­i­cal burns, satel­lite im­ages of de­stroyed vil­lages and dis­placed peo­ple, in­ter­views with more than 200 sur­vivors and anal­y­sis by chem­i­cal weapons ex­perts.

Amnesty said the at­tacks were part of a mil­i­tary op­er­a­tion against the rebel Su­dan Lib­er­a­tion Army — Ab­dul Wahid (SLA/AW) group, which Khar­toum ac­cuses of am­bush­ing mil­i­tary con­voys and at­tack­ing civil­ians. Tens of thou­sands of peo­ple have been dis­placed in Jebel Marra since mid-Jan­uary by fight­ing be­tween the two sides, the United Na­tions says.

The UN has urged Su­dan to shed light on Amnesty’s claims, while the Or­gan­i­sa­tion for the Pro­hi­bi­tion of Chem­i­cal Weapons (OPCW) has sought fur­ther ev­i­dence to push for a for­mal in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

Su­dan is a sig­na­tory to the Chem­i­cal Weapons Con­ven­tion.

Dar­fur has been en­gulfed in a deadly con­flict since 2003 when eth­nic mi­nor­ity groups took up arms against Bashir’s Arab-dom­i­nated govern­ment, which launched a bru­tal counter-in­sur­gency.

At least 300 000 peo­ple have been killed and 2.5 mil­lion dis­placed in Dar­fur since then, the UN says.

Bashir is wanted by the In­ter­na­tional Crim­i­nal Court on war crimes and geno­cide charges re­lated to Dar­fur, which he de­nies.

Su­dan in­sists that the con­flict in Dar­fur has ended, and that it wants UN peace­keep­ers who have been de­ployed in the re­gion the size of France since 2007 to leave. — AFP

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