BOSTON (AP) – A human rights group claims that a genocidal campaign is underway in the Darfur region of Sudan, based on eyewitness accounts of systematic killings, rapes and destroyed villages.

Physicians for Human Rights issued a report Wednesday blaming the government of Sudan for orchestrating the campaign, with help from Arab militias known as janjaweed, to kill or displace several million black Africans in western Sudan.

The Sudanese government is “targeting several million non-Arab Darfurian inhabitants for removal from this region of the country, either by death (most commonly through immediate violence or slow starvation) or forced migration,” the report said.

The Boston-based group called for immediate international intervention. It cited a U.S. Agency for International Development report warning that without intervention, between 300,000 and 1 million civilians could die.

Already, 1.2 million have been displaced, with 200,000 refugees living in Chad in camps and in villages along the Sudan-Chad border, the group warned.

Last month, another group, Human Rights Watch, accused the Sudanese government of “ethnic cleansing” in Darfur.

Sudan’s government has denied its forces are engaged in any such campaign, calling it instead a humanitarian crisis resulting from fighting a rebellion by black Muslim tribes in Darfur. It has also denied cooperating with the janjaweed militias.

Fighting erupted in February 2003, when the Zaghawa, Fur and Masalit tribes rebelled against what they regarded as unjust treatment by the Sudanese government in their struggle over land and resources with Arab countrymen. The government and the two main rebel groups signed a cease-fire in April, but each side has accused the other of violating it.

The conflict is separate from the 21-year war between ethnic Arab Muslim militants in northern Sudan and the black African non-Muslim south.

Physicians for Human Rights said two of its staffers took testimony from refugees in eastern Chad and along the Sudan-Chad border during a two-week period in May.

They found consistent patterns of actions in six categories that the group believes would indicate a genocide is occurring: attacks on and destruction of villages, the destruction of livelihoods and means of survival, the pursuit of villagers to eradicate them, the targeting non-Arabs and the systematic rape of women.

“There’s a clear intent to destroy non-Arab families in Darfur and all means of livelihoods,” said John Hefferman, one of the group’s workers who collected the information.

U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan plans to visit Sudan soon to make a first-hand assessment of the situation in Darfur.

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