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Wednesday, October 03, 2007

The Battle for Haskanita

EL FASHER, Sudan --

The 1,000 Darfur rebels waited until sunset, the end of the Ramadan fast, to begin their assault. Some of the outgunned African peacekeepers, caught by surprise, fought back. Others fled into the scrublands, and at the end 10 of them were dead.

The rebels overran the African Union peacekeeping outpost, seized six armored vehicles and fled Sunday morning when the Sudanese army arrived at the base on the outskirts of the town of Haskanita in North Darfur where 157 peacekeepers and support staff were stationed.

"We were just preparing for dinner when the first rocket hit us," one peacekeeper, a stocky man in his 20s with a sharp nose, told an Associated Press reporter who arrived at the base hours after the attack.

Another soldier, fighting back tears, said: "The fighting was terrible. I can't even describe it."

The peacekeepers repelled the first rebel attack after dusk, but the rebels returned and a fresh battle raged for hours. Survivors said the rebels used several armored vehicles and rocket-propelled grenades - an indication they possess heavier weapons than previously believed.

The rebels finally stormed the camp around 4 a.m. Sunday at a time when some of the peacekeepers ran out of ammunition. The peacekeepers took refuge in a ditch in one corner of the camp where dozens of empty shell casings from AK-47s were strewn in the sandy soil. More casings littered the ground near the entrance to the base.

"Once we ran out of ammunition, we all laid down in that ditch," said Abu Bakr, one of the peacekeepers.........

The Rest @ Sacbee

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