UN plans aid operation for refugees in CAR

Bangui - The United Nations plans to launch an aid operation to help refugees who have arrived in eastern Central African Republic after fleeing the conflict in neighbouring Darfur, an official said on Thursday.

The operation, to begin on Monday, will include delivering food, tarpaulins, water purification tablets and medicine, said Bruno Geddo, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees office representative in Bangui.

Refugees began arriving in the Sam Ouandja area in northeastern CAR on May 23, according to Geddo.

The refugees told authorities they had fled southern Darfur, in Sudan, because of clashes that occurred between May 12 and May 18, he said.

The mayor of Sam Ouandja counted a total of 1 411 refugees on Sunday and Monday, but more arrive each day, said Geddo.

"Today, we estimate their number at 3 000," he said.

A CAR police source said the refugees included "about 100 armed individuals", but Geddo said that had not been confirmed.

After the arrival of the first refugees, the CAR government denounced the presence of armed men on its territory who they said had come from Sudan, demanding that Khartoum remove them.

Sam Ouandja was among the areas in northeastern CAR taken by rebels from the Union of Democratic Forces for Unity (UFDR) group late last year. The country's army, with backing from French troops, later took back those areas.

The UFDR signed a peace agreement with the government in April.

The four-year conflict in the Darfur of western Sudan has left at least 200 000 people dead and forced more than two million people from their homes, according to the United Nations.

Sudan disputes those estimates, saying 9 000 people have died.