Tribal violence in Sudan’s war-torn Darfur region has killed 168 people, a local aid group said on Sunday, one of the deadliest clashes between Arabs and non-Arabs in the country in recent years.
The fighting in West Darfur province comes after Sudan has been plunged into chaos since a military coup last year. The takeover nullified the country’s transition to democracy after a popular uprising forced the longtime autocrat Omar al-Bashir out in April 2019.
The clashes raise questions about whether military leaders are capable of bringing security to Darfur, which has been plagued by years of civil war. In 2020, the UN Security Council completed its peacekeeping mission there.
Adam Regal, spokesman for the General Coordination for Refugees and Displaced in Darfur, said Sunday’s fighting in western Darfur’s Kreinik area also injured 98 people.
The fighting grew out of the killing of two people by unknown assailants on Thursday, he said.
Early on Sunday, a large number of people armed with heavy weapons launched a major attack on Kreinik, burning and looting properties, Regal said. The fighting lasted for several hours and forced thousands of people to flee their homes, he said.
Regal, whose group provides food and other assistance to displaced people in the region, shared photos of destroyed houses in the area, with some photos showing pickup trucks mounted with machine guns.
The clashes eventually reached Genena, where militias and armed groups attacked wounded people while they were being treated at the city’s main hospital, said Salah Saleh, a doctor and former medical director at the hospital.
“The area was burned down and many people were killed … There was no intervention” from the local government to stop the fighting, he said.
Authorities said they had deployed more troops and a military plane to the region since the fighting on Thursday left eight dead and at least 16 wounded.
Volker Perthes, the UN envoy to Sudan, lamented “the heinous killings of civilians … as well as the attacks on health facilities” in West Darfur.
He called for an in-depth and open investigation and that those responsible should be held accountable.
Darfur has seen deadly battles between rival tribes in recent months as the country remains embroiled in a major crisis following the October coup. Kreinik was the site of clashes in December that killed at least 88 people.
The Security Council completed the UNAMID peacekeeping mission on 31 December 2020. Since then, sporadic inter-municipal clashes have increased in the region.
In December, Human Rights Watch called on the United Nations to deploy monitors to Darfur, saying UNAMID’s departure caused a “gap in surveillance of abuses” fueled by impunity for atrocities committed in the region.
The year-long Darfur conflict broke out when rebels from the ethnic central and sub-Saharan African communities began an uprising in 2003, complaining about repression by the Arab-dominated government in the capital Khartoum.
The al-Bashir government responded with a campaign of airstrikes and raids by the Janjaweed militia, which has been accused of mass murder and rape. Up to 300,000 people were killed and 2.7 million were displaced from their homes in Darfur over the years.
Al-Bashir, who has been imprisoned in Khartoum since his ouster, is wanted by the International Criminal Court on charges of genocide and crimes against humanity related to the Darfur conflict.
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