At least 213 people have been killed in three days of violence between Arab and non-Arab groups in Sudan’s West Darfur, the state governor said, giving the first official toll of recent clashes.
West Darfur has been plagued by days of deadly fighting largely centered in Krink, a locality of nearly 500,000 people and mainly inhabited by the African Massalit tribe.
“This massive crime left around 201 dead and 103 injured” on Sunday alone, West Darfur Governor Khamees Abkar said in a video released Tuesday evening.
The violence first erupted on Friday and escalated when gunmen attacked non-Arab Massalit villages in retaliation for the killing of two tribesmen, according to the General Coordination for Refugees and Displaced Persons in Darfur , an independent aid group.
At least eight people were killed on Friday, Abkar said, confirming a toll for that day already reported by the aid group.
The state governor blamed government forces tasked with securing Krink and its surroundings for “withdrawing without any justification” as the main attacks began early on Sunday.
The town of Krink “has been completely destroyed, including government institutions,” Abkar said. “It’s a crime against humanity.”
The fighting spread to Geneina, the provincial capital of West Darfur, on Monday.
Witnesses accused the Janjawid militia of orchestrating the violence.
The Janjaweed were an Arab militia that gained notoriety for its role in suppressing an ethnic minority rebellion in Darfur in the early 2000s under autocrat Omar al-Bashir.
According to rights groups, many of its members were then integrated into the feared paramilitary rapid support forces, commanded by General Mohamed Hamdan Daglo, now the de facto deputy leader of Sudan.
The General Coordination for Refugees and Displaced Persons in Darfur on Monday reported a combined death toll of 180 for the fighting around Krink and Geneina, including four killed in the state capital on Monday.
Abkar confirmed to AFP on Wednesday that four people were killed on Monday, bringing the total toll to at least 213.
On Tuesday, Doctors Without Borders, known by the French acronym MSF, said several medical staff had been killed in the fighting as hospitals came under attack.
Consequently, “MSF teams have not been able to reach the health structures we support or carry out mobile clinic activities” in Geneina and cannot return to Krink, the humanitarian group said in a statement.
The Darfur conflict that began in 2003 has killed more than 300,000 people and displaced 2.5 million, according to the UN.
The region remains awash in weapons and has seen an upsurge in deadly violence in recent months, sparked by disputes mainly over land, livestock and access to water and pasture.
The latest violence comes as Sudan grapples with the fallout from a coup last October led by army chief Abdel Fattah al-Burhan.