Janjaweed Militia Renews Scorched-Eart Policy in Darfur

The New York Times reports that the notorious Janjaweed militia is once again active in Darfur.

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Abu Surouj, Sudan, after government forces and allied militias burned the town last month. Such attacks in Sudan are a return to the tactics that terrorized Darfur in the early, bloodiest stages of the conflict.

Photo: Lynsey Addario for The New York Times

 SULEIA, Sudan — The janjaweed are back.

They came to this dusty town in the Darfur region of Sudan on horses and camels on market day. Almost everybody was in the bustling square. At the first clatter of automatic gunfire, everyone ran.

The militiamen laid waste to the town — burning huts, pillaging shops, carrying off any loot they could find and shooting anyone who stood in their way, residents said. Asha Abdullah Abakar, wizened and twice widowed, described how she hid in a hut, praying it would not be set on fire.

“I have never been so afraid,” she said.

The attacks by the janjaweed, the fearsome Arab militias that came three weeks ago,, were a return to the tactics that terrorized Darfur in the early, bloodiest stages of the conflict.

Such brutal, three-pronged attacks of this scale — involving close coordination of air power, army troops and Arab militias in areas where rebel troops have been — have rarely been seen in the past few years, when the violence became more episodic and fractured. But they resemble the kinds of campaigns that first captured the world’s attention and prompted the Bush administration to call the violence in Darfur genocide.

I noticed the same pattern during the wars in the former Yugoslavia in the 1990s, with militia groups acting in close concert with government support.  In my study of the Croatian region of Baranya, I noticed that the villages in which civilians were killed all had one thing in common–they were on (or very near) a major regional road.  This meant that government military forces (with their tanks and armed personnel carriers) had easy access to these villages, allowing the militias to swoop in and do their thing.

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