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Sudan gunmen kill 17 civilians in new Darfur clashes

At least 17 civilians have been killed in Sudan’s Darfur region, officials said Friday, in the latest violence between rival groups that has left dozens dead this week alone.

Recent fighting has seen heavily armed forces battle in the rugged Jebel Moon mountains in West Darfur state, close to the border with Chad.

On Thursday, fighting killed 17 people and also left “dozens of injured and missing” as well as “four villages completely burned”, said Adam Regal, spokesman for the General Coordination for Refugees and Displaced in Darfur, an independent aid organisation.

Regal accused the Janjaweed — many of whom have joined the feared paramilitary Rapid Support Forces, commanded by General Mohamed Hamdan Daglo, de facto deputy leader of Sudan — of taking part in recent fighting.

“Militias have been attacking the villages of Jebel Moon, setting fire to houses and using automatic rifle fire since Sunday,” a tribal leader told AFP on condition of anonymity.

“No government forces have arrived since the attacks on Thursday, and we are terrified of an attack at any time.”

In fighting from last Sunday to Monday, 16 people were killed in clashes between the Masalit — a non-Arab people of largely settled farmers — and Arab groups of herders in Jebel Moon, according to a independent union of medics.

Darfur was ravaged by a civil war that erupted in 2003, pitting ethnic minority rebels who complained of discrimination against the Arab-dominated government of then-president Omar al-Bashir.

Khartoum responded by unleashing the Janjaweed militia, mainly recruited from Arab pastoralist tribes, who were blamed for atrocities including murder, rape, looting and burning villages.

The scorched-earth campaign left 300,000 people dead and displaced 2.5 million, according to the UN.

The region remains awash with weapons and deadly clashes erupt, often over access to pasture or water.

The latest peace deal was signed in 2020, but since a military coup in October, Darfur has seen violence spike, with hundreds killed since the takeover in fighting between herders and farmers.

Regal warned that “new attacks could occur”.

Bashir, who is wanted by the International Criminal Court on charges of genocide in Darfur, was ousted in April 2019 and jailed after mass protests against his three-decade rule.

But the latest clashes reflect a broader security breakdown in Darfur following last year’s military coup led by army chief Abdel Fattah al-Burhan in Khartoum, which derailed a transition to full civilian rule negotiated between military and civilian leaders.

In Darfur, the surge in violence has also seen rapes, the burning of villages, as well as UN bases being looted. AFP

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