Source: WORLD News Service
Sudanese government forces launched chemical weapons attacks on a remote area of the Darfur region, killing as many as 250 people, a majority of them children, Amnesty International said in a report released Sept. 29.
The human rights group said the military carried out the attacks in 32 villages near the town of Jebel Marra, beginning in January. The latest attack occurred on Sept. 9. Several interviews with witnesses and chemical weapons experts confirmed the incidents, the group said.
“The scale and brutality of these attacks is hard to put into words,” Tirana Hassan, Amnesty International’s director of crisis research, said in a statement. “Chemical weapons have been banned for decades in recognition of the fact that the level of suffering they cause can never be justified.”
Several witnesses said government forces used “poisonous smoke” that turned dark blue. Many who survived continue to suffer symptoms, including eye and respiratory problems. The report includes graphic pictures of children with peeling skin and multiple lesions on their bodies.
One resident of the region, Kalthoma, said her children fell sick after exposure to the smoke.
“They vomited and had diarrhea, they were coughing a lot,” she said. “Their skin turned dark like it was burned.”
Since 2003, Darfur has struggled through fighting between government forces and armed opposition groups, which accuse the government of marginalization. The United Nations said the ongoing conflict has killed an estimated 300,000 people and displaced 2.7 million others from their homes.
Omer Dahab Fadl Mohamed, Sudan’s ambassador to the United Nations, dismissed the Amnesty report and said the country’s government does not have chemical weapons.
“The ultimate objective of such wild accusation is to steer confusion in the on-going processes aimed at deepening peace and stability, and enhancing economic development and social cohesion in Sudan,” Mohamed said.
In response to the report, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons said yesterday it will examine the evidence and all other relevant information.
The report also detailed continued abductions, rapes, killings, and forced displacement. Amnesty used satellite imagery to confirm 171 villages had been destroyed and burned in the last eight months.
The group called on the UN Security Council to apply political pressure on Sudan’s government to allow humanitarian relief groups access to Jebel Marra.
“This region has been stuck in a catastrophic cycle of violence for more than 13 years,” Hassan said. “Nothing has changed except that the world has stopped watching.”