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Armed group attacks village in Sudan’s Darfur: tribal chief

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Armed men attacked a village in Sudan’s South Darfur province causing an unknown number of casualties, a tribal chief said on Saturday, days after a massacre elsewhere in the troubled Darfur region left 60 people dead.

The men on Friday attacked the village of Oringa, south of Nyala, the capital of South Darfur state, Yaakoub Mohammad told AFP.

“They set fire to and looted homes and fired upon residents, but we don’t know the exact number of casualties,” he said.

He added that three days earlier the group’s leader had come to the village with armed men to demand that residents leave.

The villagers in turn called the police who arrested the group leader and imprisoned him in Kass district, where he remains in custody.

Sudan’s Darfur provinces – which cover an area similar to that of France, much of it desert – have been plagued by years of violence. 

The conflict in Darfur began in 2003 when mainly non-Arab tribes, complaining of marginalisation, rose up against the government of Bashir. Government forces and Arab militia, including the feared Janjaweed, a government-linked force, moved to repress the revolt and were later accused of widespread atrocities. 

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But violence in Darfur had eased since former president Omar al-Bashir’s ouster by the army amid mass protests against his rule last year, with a preliminary peace deal signed in January between the government and a coalition of nine rebel groups, including factions from the region.

Alongside the devastating civil conflict in Darfur, here has long been localised clashes over land and access to water, mainly pitting nomadic Arab pastoralists against crop-growing farmers from long marginalised ethnic groups.

A week ago, 500 armed men attacked the district of Masteri, killing over 60 people, the majority from the Masalit community. 88 people were also injured in the attack, according to the UN.

That attack triggered panic among residents of Masteri and nearby villages. 

Around 2,000 families, comprising around 10,000 people, fled towards El Geneina, the capital of West Darfur state, around 50 kilometres from Masteri.

Some 200 more families, comprising a further 1,000 people, crossed the border to Chad.

Sudan’s Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok announced on July 26 that security forces would be deployed to Darfur to protect “citizens and the agricultural season”. 

There has as yet been no subsequent indication that any deployment has gone ahead. 

Bashir is wanted by the Hague-based International Criminal Court over charges of genocide and crimes against humanity in Darfur. The deposed president is currently on trial in Khartoum over the 1989 military coup which propelled him to power. If found guilty, he faces the death penalty.

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