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Escalating Attacks in North Darfur Force Civilians to Flee Repeatedly

Khartoum, December 1, 2004 - Two thousand civilians were yesterday forced to flee the village of Saraf Ayat in North Darfur, following the latest in a series of attacks in the region. Many of those caught up in yesterday's attack had already been forcibly displaced from their original home villages several days previously and were seeking refuge in Saraf Ayat at the time. A Doctors Without Borders/Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) team was providing medical care to people sheltering in school buildings when the attack occurred at around 2 pm yesterday afternoon.

When the MSF team arrived in Saraf Ayat yesterday morning there were about 1500 displaced people sheltering in the village. They had fled their homes three days beforehand, after assaults on November 27 targeted villages north of the town of Tawilla. They were in need of all forms of humanitarian assistance - food, medical care, blankets, and shelter. MSF had just started providing medical assistance when an attack caused both displaced people and residents to flee and forced the MSF team to evacuate.

The MSF team also had to evacuate from the town of Korma last Tuesday because of escalating insecurity. They returned to Korma on Sunday to assess the situation and give medical consultations. Amongst the people treated were six civilians, including two children, with bullet wounds sustained during the attacks on November 27.

"The fact that people are being forced to repeatedly escape from one place to the next and cannot find a secure place of refuge is extremely worrying," says Jerome Oberreit of MSF. "Mortality studies carried out by MSF show that during the early phases of the Darfur conflict the pattern of repeated violence and consequent displacement was the cause of very high mortality. We are now concerned that we may be seeing a return to such a pattern in North Darfur, with people having to flee over and over again."

"There is no doubt that the people caught up in this attack are extremely vulnerable civilians - men, women and children - who are in urgent need of humanitarian assistance," continues Oberreit. "It is absolutely unacceptable that repeated violence against civilians continues in Darfur."

MSF currently has over 200 international aid workers and 2,000 Sudanese staff working throughout Darfur and an additional 35 international staff caring for displaced Darfurians in Chad. MSF medical teams in more than 26 locations in Darfur conduct medical consultations, treat victims of violence, care for severely and moderately malnourished children, improve water and sanitation conditions, and provide blanket feedings and other essential items for more than 700,000 displaced people. Seraf Ayat is located approximately 50 kilometers west of El Fasher, the capital of North Darfur State.