updated 11/27/2007 12:55:09 PM ET 2007-11-27T17:55:09

Sudan's interior minister said Monday the government was taking legal action against a French charity that allegedly attempted last month to fly 103 children from neighboring Chad to Europe.

Minster Zubair Bashir Taha said the ministry was suing Zoe's Ark charity, which said the children were from Sudan's Darfur region, through a French law firm, according to a statement posted on the ministry's Web site. He did not provide further details.

He accused the French charity of violating international laws because they allegedly tried to take children away from villages and refugee camps.

"This is not abduction or the luring of children but a war crime," he was quoted as telling senior police leadership.

Taha also said the ministry was suing a French base in Chad because it allegedly allowed the organization to use its airport. He did not elaborate.

Six members of Zoe's Ark are in custody in Chad after trying to spirit 103 children presented as orphans from Darfur to host families in Europe. If convicted, they face up to 20 years in prison with hard labor.

Chadian and French officials say most of the children had parents or close family and have cast doubt on claims they were from Darfur. Zoe's Ark maintains its intentions were humanitarian.

Violence erupted in Darfur in western Sudan in 2003, when rebels from Darfur's ethnic African Muslims took up arms against the Arab-dominated government. More than 200,000 people have been killed and 2.5 million forced to flee their homes — many to neighboring Chad.

Critics accuse Sudan of retaliating by arming local Arab militias known as the janjaweed, and the government is blamed for widespread atrocities against civilians. The government denies the accusations.

Copyright 2007 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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