U.N. peacekeepers find no evidence of Darfur ‘mass rape’

Sudanese troops denied peacekeepers access to the area last week, but a patrol reached Tabit and spent hours interviewing residents

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The U.N. said Monday it has found no evidence Sudanese troops had raped 200 women and girls in the Darfur region, where insurgents have been battling government forces since 2003.

Local media reported soldiers entered Tabit in North Darfur after one of their troops went missing last month and raped 200 women and girls.

Sudanese troops denied peacekeepers access to the area last week, but the United Nations said a patrol reached Tabit on Sunday, spending several hours interviewing residents.

"The team neither found any evidence nor received any information regarding the media allegations," the U.N.-African Union Mission in Darfur (UNAMID) said in a statement.

"None of those interviewed confirmed that any incident of rape took place in Tabit on the day of that media report".

UNAMID said the patrol had talked to residents, community leaders and the commander of the Sudanese army garrison in Tabit.

It said it planned to follow up the visit with "possible further investigations and patrols" in the area.

The Sudanese army said on Sunday that the media reports were "unjustified and unreasonable".

Ethnic insurgents rebelled against Khartoum Arab-dominated government 11 years ago, complaining of marginalization.

The U.N. says 300,000 people have been killed in Darfur and more than two million displaced since 2003.

President Omar al-Bashir, 70, is wanted by the International Criminal Court for alleged war crimes in Darfur.

In recent months, a rise in criminality and disputes between Arab tribes over resources have seen the security situation in the region deteriorate.

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