KHARTOUM (Reuters) - A group of Sudanese policemen have staged a mutiny in Darfur, according to state news agency SUNA on Sunday, in a fresh sign of the deteriorating security situation in the vast western region.
A “limited” number of officers broke away from their Central Reserve Police unit in El Geneina, the capital of West Darfur state, after stealing four Land Cruisers, weapons and provisions, SUNA said, quoting the interior ministry.
The renegade policemen then fired into the air before leaving the city, SUNA said, adding that there were no casualties and that the army was chasing the men.
It gave no more details of the incident, which will come as an embarrassment to the government, which has been trying to convince donors that conflict in Darfur is largely over and wants help to rebuild the region.
Violence in Darfur has subsided from its peak in 2003 and 2004, but a surge in fighting has forced more than 130,000 people to flee their homes since the start of this year, according to the United Nations.
War broke out in Darfur in 2003 when rebels took up arms against the central government, accusing Khartoum of neglecting the remote region and marginalizing its ethnic minorities.
Despite the presence of the world’s largest peacekeeping mission, UNAMID, fighting between Sudan’s army and rebels has continued since then, alongside banditry and tribal clashes.
Events in Darfur are difficult to verify because Sudan severely restricts access to journalists. Reuters last got a Darfur travel permit was in 2012.
Separately, the U.S. Charge’s Affaires in Sudan, Joseph Stafford, said Washington had noted with “alarm” that Sudan had denied access to UNAMID in eastern Darfur to assist displaced people.
The International Criminal Court has indicted President Omar Hassan al-Bashir and other Sudanese officials for masterminding war crimes in Darfur. Sudan has dismissed the charges as political campaign against the African country.
Reporting by Ulf Laessing and Khalid Abdelaziz; Editing by Jason Webb