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Last Updated: Thursday, 21 September 2006, 00:08 GMT 01:08 UK
Dying as Darfur awaits peacekeepers
By Jonah Fisher
BBC News, Darfur

Displaced Sudanese women queue at a water point in Abu Shouk camp, Darfur
A return to the bombing campaigns has left thousands more displaced
Tawilla town is completely empty. Its dust roads still and quiet.

Repeated attacks from pro-government Janjaweed militia have forced the residents to leave.

Some fled for miles, others moved the short distance to the edge of the AU peacekeepers' base where they huddle close to its barbed wire fence.

On a small hill in between the camp and a government position, about 30 men with white robes and caps are gathered. They are digging a grave for a two-year-old girl.

Laid out on the red sand is her frail body - wrapped in cloth and a plastic grain sack. She died without ever seeing a doctor.

"I think she had a liver problem," said her father, Adam Abdel Majid. "I tried everything to get her medicine but there is nothing here."

'Washed away'

Next to Hawa's grave are 11 other mounds of red sand. Some of these graves are decorated with thorns. An elder takes me to one side.

See which parts of Darfur are too dangerous for aid workers

"These are the people who have died since the last rain," he said. "When the rain comes again, this is all washed away."

Hawa died as a direct consequence of Darfur's increasing levels of violence.

Relief International, the last aid agency in Tawilla, closed down their clinic a month ago after rebels hijacked their vehicle. Twenty thousand people now live without healthcare or sanitation facilities.

A few hundred metres from the graves is where Tawilla's new arrivals build their shelters.

A Sudanese government offensive has displaced thousands more people with a return to the bombing campaigns of earlier in the war.

Military tactics

Hassania Abubakar has been in Tawilla just over a week. She fled her village of Tina on 11 September.

"We were farming near our homes when we saw the planes coming," she said. "I ran to get my children from the water hole where they were playing and we kept on going."

African Union soldiers patrol the village of Kerkera, northern Darfur
Rebel-held villages have reportedly been attacked by the government

After a day's walk Hassania and her four children arrived at Tawilla. She has not seen her husband since the attack.

Bombing from Russian built Antonov aircraft has become a standard part of Sudanese military tactics. There is no precision targeting - the cargo hatch is simply winched open and the explosives rolled out.

Two other children from Tina were not so lucky. They were hit by the explosions and sustained injuries to their legs. Their parents carried them the 10km (six miles) to the AU base. Their injuries were photographed before they were flown on to hospital.

On the same day the AU says the government also bombed the villages of Tabre, Kalma and Sandingo. The next day, having emptied them of people, ground troops and militia moved in and looted everything.

Across Darfur there have been similar reports of the government clearing rebel-held villages through a combined air and ground campaign.

Khartoum has denied any bombing, calling it "lies designed to further the agenda of those who want to impose United Nations peacekeepers".

Tawilla is one of the worst places in Darfur but it is also a possible vision of the Darfur of the future. A Darfur too dangerous for aid workers to operate.

A Darfur where peacekeepers can only shake their heads at the mess all around them.




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