EL-FASHER, Sudan (Reuters) - Militias raided a Darfur refugee camp, shooting dead two people and injuring at least 10 in an escalation of tensions in Sudan’s restive west, witnesses and U.N. officials said Wednesday.
The raid followed the murder of a militia member’s relative who appeared to be searching the camps in Kass, South Darfur for the suspect, U.N. officials in Darfur said.
“The Janjaweed (militia) came in on horses and camels and were looting and shooting,” Adam Ali, a resident in the Baytari camp in Kass town, told Reuters by telephone. “They burned many huts and looted the people’s belongings.”
The United Nations estimates 300,000 have died in the humanitarian crisis sparked after Khartoum mobilized militias to quell a revolt by mostly non-Arab rebels in early 2003. More than 2 million Darfuris fled the conflict to makeshift camps surrounding urban centers.
The International Criminal Court is reconsidering a charge of genocide against President Omar Hassan al-Bashir who is already wanted for war crimes and crimes against humanity.
The ICC prosecutor has said he will use last year’s expulsion of 13 international aid agencies from Darfur as new evidence against Bashir.
A patrol of U.N./African Union UNAMID peacekeepers on Tuesday saw armed horsemen riding into the camp, while others surrounded the settlement, one senior U.N. official said on condition of anonymity.
“They were members of an Arab militia, apparently related to the man who was killed. They were shooting sporadically when they entered the camp,” the official told Reuters.
Ali said four people were killed, but the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) put the death toll at two, with 10 injured.
“Ten IDPs (internally displaced people) were taken to Kass hospital. Another two were shot dead,” said OCHA spokesman Samuel Hendricks.
“It is concerning because it shows the level of tension. Things can easily escalate and get out of control,” he added.
Some gaps in humanitarian assistance were left after last year’s expulsion of aid agencies, those left working in Sudan’s west have said. But the government has urged them to train and support Sudanese agencies to replace them.
Peace talks in Qatar have made little progress with rebel groups divided and sporadic clashes continuing on the ground.
Additional reporting by Opheera McDoom in Khartoum; Editing by Randy Fabi