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Friday, September 01, 2006

KHARTOUM, Sudan (Reuters) -- Sudanese security forces have begun seizing laptop computers entering the country to check on the information stored on them as part of new security measures.

One state security source said the laptops are searched and returned in one day and that the procedure was introduced because pornographic films and photographs were entering Sudan.

U.N. officials, aid agency workers, businessmen and journalists who regularly visit Sudan worry the security of sensitive and confidential information such as medical, legal and financial records on their computers could be at risk.

Authorities have cracked down on organizations like Medecins Sans Frontieres, the International Rescue Committee who have published reports on huge numbers of rapes in the violent Darfur region.

"They could download email systems, passwords, even get into people's bank accounts," said one source in Khartoum's aid community who declined to be named for fear of retribution.

Other innocent material could also be construed to be subversive, like maps or photos, the source added. A U.S. journalist is currently in jail in Darfur accused of espionage.

Critics say the government fears U.N. troops will arrest any officials likely to be indicted by the International Criminal Court investigating alleged war crimes in the region.

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