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U.N. Pulls Back Staff From Darfur

March 16, 2005

UNITED NATIONS (AP) _ The United Nations has pulled staff from four western areas of Sudan’s Darfur region because of threats against foreigners and other staff, U.N. officials said Wednesday.

Twenty-nine Sudanese and three international workers were withdrawn from four areas surrounding the West Darfur capital of Geneina _ ordered into the town itself after officials got credible reports that militia had planned to attack foreigners, U.N. spokeswoman Radhia Achouri said from the capital, Khartoum.

Twelve Sudanese working for foreign non-governmental organizations were also pulled back from those areas, she said.

Militiamen have attacked foreign aid workers several times, and had told drivers they would do so again.

Conflict has engulfed Darfur since February 2003, when two non-Arab rebel groups took up arms against the Arab-dominated government to win more political and economic rights for the region’s African tribes.

Sudan’s Arab government is accused of responding by backing Janjaweed militiamen who have carried out rapes and killings against Sudanese of African origin. The government denies backing the Janjaweed.

The United Nations now estimates that about 180,000 people have died in Sudan’s western Darfur region as a result of violence, disease or malnutrition since October 2003 _ 2 1/2 times the previous estimate.

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