ARMED clashes broke out on Monday in El Geneina, capital of West Darfur and Sudan’s westernmost city, residents said, as fighting that killed scores of people in a nearby town over the weekend spread.
Unrest across Darfur, where a war between rebels and government forces backed by militias claimed an estimated 300,000 lives in the early 2000s and displaced millions, has increased in the past two years.
Clashes over the weekend in which almost 300 were killed or injured were among the most deadly in the region over that period. Last year alone some 430,000 people were displaced.
The Central Committee of Sudanese Doctors said that it wasn’t possible to determine a death toll for Monday, but that at least 10 people had been killed.
“Since sundown, we’ve been hearing gunshots. I can hear them right now,” a resident of El Geneina said on Monday.
“Everyone is hiding inside their homes because the fighting is in the street and no one can leave,” he added, speaking by telephone. He declined to be named out of fear for his safety.
Analysts and activists said some armed groups that were not included in a 2020 peace deal may have become more aggressive in response. A joint peace-keeping force called for by the agreement has yet to fully materialize across the region.
In a statement on Monday evening, Sudan’s Security and Defense Council said troops would be sent to ease tensions and take control of the situation.
The latest fighting began with an altercation on Thursday between members of different tribes, according to the United Nations and rights groups active in the area.
It escalated on Friday with an attack on the town of Kreinik, near El Geneina, by “Janjaweed” militias that killed at least nine people, according to the Coordinating Committee for Refugees and Displaced People.
Janjaweed is the name given to the largely Arab nomadic militias who rights groups blame for some of the worst atrocities in Darfur.
The situation in the area remained tense before another attack on Kreinik, home to almost 40,000 displaced people, on Sunday. At least 168 people were killed and 98 were wounded, according to the committee.
At least 20,000 people were displaced as their homes were burned down, said the Darfur Bar Association on Sunday.
The fighting began to spread towards El Geneina, where the city’s main hospital was attacked and four people were killed, according to doctors’ unions.
Speaking on Monday morning, residents said they did not see any sign of intervention by the army.
They said the fighting on Monday appeared to be between members of the Janjaweed and rebel groups, mirroring the conflict in the early 2000s. The Janjaweed supported the government against mostly non-Arab rebels who accused the government of marginalising the Darfur region.
Ali Kushayb, accused of being a Janjaweed leader, went on trial at the International Criminal Court earlier this month on war crimes charges.
While some rebel groups joined the government in the 2020 peace deal, some of the Janjaweed was absorbed into the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces that are also part of the government.