Official: Death toll in latest Darfur violence now over 200

CAIRO (AP) — The death toll from weekend tribal clashes between Arabs and non-Arabs in Sudan’s western Darfur region has surpassed 200 people, a senior official said Tuesday.

Khamis Abdalla Abkar, the provincial governor of West Darfur province, said Sunday’s fighting in the town of Kreinik also wounded at least 103 others.

He said attackers overwhelmed a joint security force in the town, leading to its withdrawal.

“This is a crime, a crime against humanity,” Abkar said in video comments, adding that the town was destroyed, including its government institutions.

The fighting, some of the deadliest in the region in recent years, grew out of the killing of two Arab herdsmen on Thursday just outside Kreinik, 80 kilometers (around 50 miles) east of Genena, the provincial capital of West Darfur.

Large numbers of Arab militias, known as janjaweed, then stormed the town early Sunday with heavy weapons in retaliation, he said.

The violence eventually reached West Darfur’s provincial capital of Genena on Sunday and the main hospital was attacked.

Shooting took place inside the facility including its emergency department. One staffer was killed, and health care workers were evacuated, according to the Doctors Without Borders charity.

Abkar, the provincial governor, also said that clashes on Thursday and Friday left eight dead and over two dozen wounded.

Abkar said authorities have taken unprecedented security measures to protect civilians in West Darfur. The military, he said, deployed a brigade to the province joining a civilian protection force already stationed in Kreinik.

Tensions between Arab and African Masalit communities in Kreinik date back to December when a property dispute at a local market triggered clashes that killed at least 88 people.

The fighting has come at a critical time for Sudan, which has plunged into chaos since a military coup last year. The takeover upended the country’s transition to democracy after a popular uprising forced the removal of longtime autocrat Omar al-Bashir in April 2019.

The clashes raise questions over whether military leaders are capable of bringing security to Darfur, which has been wracked by years of civil war. In 2020, the U.N. Security Council ended its peacekeeping mission there.

The Darfur conflict began in 2003 when ethnic Africans rebelled, accusing the Arab-dominated government in Khartoum of discrimination. Al-Bashir’s government was accused of retaliating by arming local nomadic Arab tribes and unleashing the janjaweed on civilians — a charge it denied.

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