Hasan Abd al-Karim on Monday said African Union troops were just 5km away when militiamen rampaged through his home village of Thor, killing 22 people.

   

"They were so close they would have heard the shooting, but they did nothing," Abd al-Karim said, adding that he fled for his life as armed men burned and looted homes.

   

He said the militias, known as Janjawid, caught the villagers by surprise by attacking in the early morning. He was sitting at home with his wife and two young children when he heard the shooting.

   

"I panicked, ran outside - there were horses, camels, shooting, burning and more shooting - it was total chaos," he said.

 

"My wife grabbed one child, I grabbed the other and we ran into the bush leaving everything we owned behind."

 

Shaky ceasefire

 

AU troops have limited powers
to protect civilians in Darfur

"This attack could have been avoided had they intervened to stop it," Abd al-Karim said, tears welling up in his eyes.

 

"But they just come afterwards and make useless reports."

   

More than 2000 AU troops are deployed in Darfur to monitor a shaky ceasefire between the rebels and the central government.

   

But they are not mandated as peacekeepers and have limited powers to protect civilians in Darfur, a region the size of France in western Sudan.

   

Abd al-Karim said the presence of AU forces in nearby Nertiti was pointless.

 

Continuing attacks

   

The job of the AU force is to report ceasefire violations to a joint rebel and government commission, which names and shames those responsible in front of international partners.

   

"Do they have any idea how big Darfur is? They should come with 300,000 maybe and that may do the job"

Musa Ibrahim Muhammad,
resident of Otash

But Darfuris at Otash demanded the troops be deployed as peacekeepers.

   

"These attacks are continuing constantly - all over this region," tribal leader Adam Abd al Karim Muhajir said.

   

"[African leaders] need to order them (the troops) to become peacekeepers. Otherwise there's no point to them being here."

   

When the AU mission fully deploys it will number about 3300, but many of these will be civilian police.

   

Darfuris at Otash said such a force was woefully inadequate.

   

"Do they have any idea how big Darfur is? They should come with 300,000 maybe and that may do the job," Otash resident Musa Ibrahim Muhammad said.