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Friday, April 3, 2020

Security crackdown on protesters in West Darfur leaves 6 dead

At least six people have been killed in unrest in Sudan’s West Darfur, sources said Monday, the day after security forces dispersed protesters outside government buildings in the state capital Geneina.

The violence began Sunday when security forces broke up a rally outside government buildings by villagers from Mulli, near Geneina, who reportedly fled their homes after being surrounded by the tribe of a herder found dead nearby.

“The victims were from all sides, and there are no more than six,” governor Khalil al-Sharif told the private Blue Nile television station by telephone.

But the leader of the Masalit ethnic group, to which the protesting villagers reportedly belonged, said 13 people died.

“The losses were 13 people killed — three from the Arab Beni Halba tribe and 10 from the Masalit, and there were 10 people wounded,” Saad Bahr al-Din told Blue Nile television.

The governor described the incidents as “sporadic” but said the situation was under control.

Conflicting accounts of the violence emerged on Sunday.

A rebel group based in the region claimed four people were killed when security forces fired on them, while a spokesman for the West Darfur government said a protest had been dispersed after three vehicles near the government buildings were torched.

Villagers fled Mulli in west Darfur after an “unidentified armed group” surrounded them, according to the UN-AU mission in Darfur (UNAMID).

Some sources suggested the armed men were from the tribe of the herder found dead near Mulli.

The displaced villagers protested outside the government buildings, although it is unclear what their demands were before security forces cracked down.

UNAMID said it had received “reports of continuous unrest and sporadic firing across Geneina and in Mulli with an undetermined number of casualties”.

It urged for “restraint” from all sides.

It was not immediately possible to verify reports in the conflict-hit western region, where media access is strictly limited.

An eyewitness told AFP by phone there was further unrest on Monday afternoon in Geneina after the burial of some of those killed on Sunday.

“Youths taking part in the funeral started chanting ‘Retribution, retribution!’,” the witness said.

Security forces immediately fired tear gas and shot into the air.

Five people suffering the effects of the tear gas were taken to hospital, the witness said.

Darfur — made up of five states — spiralled into conflict in 2003.

Ethnic insurgents rebelled against President Omar al-Bashir, complaining of marginalisation.

Bashir unleashed a counter-insurgency that saw him indicted on war crimes charges by the International Criminal Court.

The conflict has killed more than 300,000 people and there are some 2.5 million displaced in the region, according to the UN.

Fighting between Darfur’s myriad ethnic groups and rising criminality in some areas has also hit the region.

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