Scores of civilians and fighters have died in clashes, tribal violence linked to cattle looting and access to grazing pastures, as well as banditry over the past two months, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said on Thursday.

The ICRC voiced concern at the upsurge in violence in all three Darfur states, where it deploys 600 staff working on food distribution, farming assistance, water supply and medical services.

It said: "The escalating violence is a threat to the much-anticipated November harvest and has further hampered the seasonal migration of livestock."

Disastrous consequences

"This could have disastrous consequences for the recovery efforts of the last 18 months - including an extensive ICRC agricultural assistance programme - and intensify the cycle of dependency on humanitarian aid," the ICRC statement said.

Scores of civilians and fighters
have died in ongoing violence

Two main Darfur rebel groups took up arms against the Khartoum government in early 2003, accusing it of monopolising wealth and power. The conflict has forced about two million people from their homes to camps.

On Tuesday, refugees released the last of up to 34 aid workers they had taken hostage in Kalma camp outside Nyala in South Darfur, the region's largest camp with 90,000 people.

Armed police had arrested a tribal leader on Sunday in Kalma, prompting the abduction. Authorities have said fighters have launched attacks from within the camp.

Abduction and theft

Over the past week, the ICRC has resumed most of its activities, after a temporary suspension in some zones for three weeks as risks were deemed too high, according to the statement.

But the al-Ginaina-Habila-Murnai triangle in West Darfur and Jabal Mun to the north of Sulaia remain no-go areas, it said.

The abduction and killing of ceasefire monitors from the African Union peace force earlier this month was "symptomatic of the growing risks faced by peacekeepers and aid workers alike", the Geneva-based agency said.

An ICRC field team was recently attacked twice by bandits south of al-Ginaina and robbed of cash and valuables, it added.