At least 40 people have been killed and 60 others wounded in tribal clashes in the Sudanese city of El Geneina, the United Nations said on Monday, in a renewal of bloodshed following a major flare-up of violence earlier this year.
The incident is the latest in the troubled region since the signing of a peace agreement late last year and the withdrawal of UN peacekeepers.
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The violence was between the Arab Rizeigat and the Masalit tribes in El Geneina, the provincial capital of West Darfur province. It happened after unknown armed men on Saturday shot dead two people from the Masalit, according to the UN humanitarian affairs agency.
Two others from the Masalit were wounded in that shooting, it said. The circumstances of the shootings were not immediately clear.
Since then, the two tribes have mobilised forces and gunfire could still be heard in El Geneina late on Monday, it said.
In January, at least 129 people were killed and military reinforcements were brought into El Geneina. However, local sources say they have since largely withdrawn.
Residents of the city and an internal UN security bulletin seen by Reuters news agency report the use of heavy weaponry and rocket-propelled grenades, with pictures and videos from residents showing plumes of smoke rising from the city’s neighbourhoods.
The West Darfur Doctors’ Committee, part of a nationwide independent body formed in 2016 representing the medical community, said in a statement that an ambulance carrying wounded victims was attacked in the melee, resulting in three health workers being wounded.
The UN said all humanitarian activities were suspended as roads around the southern part of El Geneina were blocked.
West Darfur Governor Mohammed Abdalla al-Duma said in a statement that officials were taking “necessary measures” without elaborating. He urged residents in El Geneina to stay vigilant and remain at home until security forces contain the situation.
The clashes posed a challenge to efforts by Sudan’s transitional government to end decades-long rebellions in areas like Darfur.
In October, the government signed a peace agreement with some of the rebel groups that had fought against former President Omar al-Bashir.
However, attacks by members of Arab tribes that al-Bashir had armed to fight the rebels have been escalating, and tribal clashes have increased in the heavily armed region.
International peacekeepers began withdrawing at the start of the year, and the Sudanese government said a new joint peacekeeping force mandated under the agreement would be able to protect civilians. But many in Darfur say they feel less safe.