Sudan: Blame traded over civilian deaths in Darfur

Rebels blame government forces for killings of civilians at a camp for displaced people.

UNAMID peacekeepers in Sudan
Sudan wants UN peacekeepers who have been deployed in Darfur since 2007 to leave [Mohamed Nureldin Abdallah/Reuters]

A Sudanese official and rebels have traded blame over civilian deaths in central Darfur, an area that has seen sporadic clashes between the army and armed groups despite a government-announced ceasefire.

The Darfur Union UK, an activist group, reported on Tuesday that gunmen, reportedly in military uniforms, killed 11 at a camp for displaced people in the Jabal Marra area.

Jaafar Abdelhakam, the governor of central Darfur and member of Sudan’s ruling National Congress Party, accused the SPM Abdelwahed movement of perpetrating Sunday’s attack.

SPM Abdelwahed is one of the main rebel groups in Darfur that has refused to enter into dialogue with the government.

However, locals blamed government forces for the deaths in what they described as an apparent revenge attack for the murder of a soldier.

Abdallah Saleh al-Shafie, who heads an association that supports displaced people in Darfur, said Sudanese forces carried out the “barbaric and savage” attack after a soldier’s body was found lying in a street.

He told the Sudan Tribune that nine people were killed and around 60 were wounded. He also said the men used heavy and light weapons.

A rebel group, the Sudan Liberation Army, led by Suliman “Minni” Minnawi, also accused pro-government forces of conducting the attack.

It released a statement saying “the attack contradicts” President Omar al-Bashir’s decision on December 31 to extend by a month a unilateral ceasefire in Darfur, Blue Nile and South Kordofan regions.

“Bashir’s decision is aimed at covering up the crimes committed by his militias, under his instructions,” it added.

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Darfur has been engulfed in a deadly conflict since 2003, when ethnic minority black tribes took up arms against Bashir’s government, accusing it of marginalising the region.

Bashir is wanted by the International Criminal Court on war crimes and genocide charges related to Darfur, which he denies.

According to the United Nations, at least 300,000 people have been killed and 2.5 million displaced by the fighting.

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies