Darfur fighting displaces more than 30,000 people: U.N.

KHARTOUM Fri Jan 11, 2013 1:28pm EST

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KHARTOUM (Reuters) - More than 30,000 people have fled during two weeks of fighting in Sudan's Darfur, the United Nations said after some of the worst clashes in the region for months.

Conflict has raged in Darfur, a vast arid region in the west of Sudan, since 2003 when mainly non-Arab tribes took up arms against the Arab government in Khartoum, accusing it of political and economic marginalization.

Fighting and rebels divisions have scuppered years of international mediation and several rounds of peace talks. Violence has ebbed from the peaks of 2003-4 but has picked up in recent weeks, and banditry has also spread.

Around 30,000 people fled their homes in Golo and Guldo towns to escape two weeks of fighting that began on December 24 in the Jebel Marra region, prized for its fertile land, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said in a report.

Some 2,800 people fled to a camp in Nertiti in central Darfur, home to already 42,000 displaced people, its report said late on Thursday, citing figures from the government and a community leader.

Rebels from the Sudan Liberation Army (SLA) faction, led by Abdel Wahed Mohamed al-Nur, have seized the towns of Golo and Rockero, the international peacekeeping force UNAMID said on Wednesday.

Several thousand people also fled when fighting broke out this week between two Arab tribes in North Darfur over the use of a gold mine, UNAMID said on Friday.

"The fighting has ... resulted in a number of casualties, looting, burning of nearby villages, and the displacement of thousands of civilians forced to flee towards Kabkabiya, Saraf Omra and Al Sereif towns," UNAMID said in statement.

Three UNAMID planes evacuated 26 wounded people, it said, adding that the number of dead was unclear because tribesmen had banned a patrol visiting the area of Jebel Amer, where the mine is located.

Events in Darfur are hard to verify as Sudan restricts travel of journalists and diplomats.

The International Criminal Court has issued arrest warrants for President Omar Hassan al-Bashir and other Sudanese officials for masterminding war crimes in Darfur. They deny the charges and refuse to recognize the court.

Human rights groups and the United Nations estimate that hundreds of thousands of people have died in Darfur's conflict, although the toll is disputed by the government, which says around 10,000 people were killed.

Around 1.4 million displaced people live in camps across Darfur, depending on aid rations, according to the United Nations.

(Reporting by Ulf Laessing; Editing by Alison Williams)

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