OLD AL-JEER SUREAF, Sudan, Nov. 10 -- Just hours after the government agreed to a peace deal Tuesday aimed at ending violence in Darfur, Sudanese police arrived at this battered camp in the middle of the night, beating residents with wooden poles, bulldozing and burning shelters and firing tear gas into a health clinic, residents and aid workers reported.
The assault capped a series of often violent government raids over the past week, aimed at relocating residents to new camps. It also came despite international condemnation of the raids and requests from the United Nations and the Bush administration that displaced families not be forcibly moved to new locations.
A worker for the International Medical Corps checks on 2-month-old Sabri Hamad Mahmoud, held by his mother, Khadija Dahiwa Tagal, at the clinic in the new al-Jeer Sureaf camp.
(Jahi Chikwendiu -- The Washington Post)
_____Crisis in Sudan_____
Q&A: Darfur A brief explanation of the issues and current humanitarian situation in Western Sudan.
Photos: Sudan's Rebels
Sudan, Rebels Reach Accord On Darfur (The Washington Post, Nov 10, 2004)
Sudanese Rape Victims Find Justice Blind to Plight (The Washington Post, Nov 8, 2004)
Darfur Increasingly Unstable, U.N. Envoy Warns (The Washington Post, Nov 5, 2004)
Sudanese Troops Attack and Destroy Camp in Darfur (The Washington Post, Nov 4, 2004)
3,200 Peacekeepers Pledged on Mission to Darfur (The Washington Post, Oct 21, 2004)
Secretary of State Colin L. Powell said Wednesday in Washington that he had spoken with Sudan's vice president over the weekend and "specifically said that this kind of behavior was unacceptable, we couldn't understand it and it was not helping us reach a solution."
The U.N. Security Council is due to hold a meeting in Nairobi, the Kenyan capital, next week to discuss the crisis in Sudan, where tens of thousands have died and about 1.5 million people have been displaced during 20 months of fighting between African rebels and government troops and their Arab militia allies.
The panel could impose sanctions on the Khartoum government if it finds that serious abuses of civilians have taken place. A U.N. report last week said there was evidence of war crimes and mass abuses by all parties to the conflict.
By midmorning Wednesday, the charred, tattered remains of burned huts at Old al-Jeer Sureaf dotted the once-crammed tent city of about 5,000 people. Fifteen people had been seriously injured, 10 community leaders were under arrest and several mothers said they had lost their children in the chaos.
One local sheik, Taher Hasaballeh, was beaten by 10 police officers and taken to jail, witnesses said. He had refused to leave the camp on Saturday and led a community sit-in at a straw-roofed mosque.
Jan Pronk, the U.N. envoy to Sudan, visited the half-destroyed camp Wednesday afternoon, wading through a jumble of singed blankets, jerrycans, bowls and plastic sandals. Sudan's foreign minister, Mustafa Osman Ismail, and other officials from Khartoum accompanied him. Pronk made no public comment during his visit.
The group toured the health clinic, speaking to women who said they had been raped during the raids and inspecting burn marks on the building from tear gas canisters. One Sudanese official expressed frank skepticism about the accounts of rape, calling the women "very good actresses."
Afterward, Pronk and the officials attended a tense meeting with humanitarian workers in the area. Government representatives said that the land was private property and that residents were being moved to a better location. Last week, officials said the camp was being cleared because people were posing as refugees so they could collect food and blankets.
"They have been taken to a better place," said Ahmed Ali Abdallah, a government employee who runs a new camp 17 miles south of the old camp. "The conditions of life were not suitable for them."
The violence began Nov. 1 when camp residents were told to move to the new al-Jeer Sureaf location but refused to go. Government police and soldiers swept through the old camp twice last week, on Tuesday and Saturday, burning huts and swinging sticks, residents said.
Several hundred families were forcibly relocated, and some aid workers and U.N. officials said they believed the government was moving camp occupants in an effort to root out rebel forces.
At the new camp, large white tents donated by the Saudi Red Crescent Society have been set up in neat rows. But the camp is isolated in an area surrounded by sorghum fields where pro-government militiamen known as the Janjaweed reportedly have set up a base.