USAID administrator Andrew Natsios blamed the devastation on Arab militias known as the Janjaweed, who are allegedly linked to Khartoum. Natsios said it was unclear how many villagers were killed, but between 10,000 and 30,000 Sudanese are estimated to have died in the fighting which began in February. He warned that time is running out to help 2 million Sudanese in desperate need of aid in Darfur.

Although Washington has not clarified its position in legal terms, US officials have indicated that events in Darfur may constitute genocide. ‘I can tell you that we see indicators of genocide and there is evidence that points in that direction,’ said Pierre Prosper, US ambassador-at-large for war crimes.

Next week, US Secretary of State Colin Powell and UN Secretary General Kofi Annan are scheduled to visit the region. ‘It is incumbent on the international community to come together solidly to do everything we can to bring [the fighting] to an end,’ Powell said. He also sent a message to Khartoum: ‘Let the aid flow freely. Let the humanitarian workers in. Use government forces and political influence to end the attacks’.