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83 dead after militia attack in West Darfur - doctor's union

KHARTOUM/CAIRO (Reuters) - Some 83 people have died and 160 people are injured after militia attacks on the West Darfur city of El Geneina in Sudan, a local doctors’ union said on Sunday.

Violence has increased in Darfur in recent months, and two weeks after U.N. peacekeepers stopped patrolling the region ahead of a full withdrawal.

After the attacks on Saturday and Sunday, Sudan’s defence minister said military reinforcements were being sent to the city. The country’s sovereign council said in a statement that members of the armed forces were among the victims.

The attacks followed a fight, reported by both local organizations and residents, in which a member of the Masalit tribe killed a man from an Arab tribe.

“Armed militias took advantage of the incident and attacked El Geneina from all sides” human rights group the Darfur Bar Association said.

It said the militias also attacked the neighbouring Kreinding refugee camp, which was rebuilding after a similar attack a year ago, and it accused them of looting and human rights abuses.

People were fleeing in waves from the camp to El Geneina, despite the city still facing gunfire throughout the day on Sunday, two eyewitnesses told Reuters.

“There are people dead out there that we haven’t been able to safely get to,” said Ahmed Haroun, a local activist.

One resident of the camp told Reuters he had helped carry 11 dead bodies on Sunday and 17 on Saturday, and was now sheltering in a school while militiamen continued to move through the city.

Such incidents have occurred in Darfur since conflict broke out in 2003 when the government of Omar al-Bashir armed militias to help repress a revolt.

Brokering lasting peace there and in other parts of Sudan has been one of the main challenges facing the authorities since the overthrow of Bashir in April 2019.

A coordinating committee for internally displaced Darfuris, who had protested the exit of the U.N. peacekeeping mission UNAMID that patrolled the region until Jan. 1, said that it had been warning of the kind of attack seen in El Geneina.

“Armed militias still pose a constant threat,” it said.

While the Darfur Bar Association complained that the local military commander did not respond to the state governor’s declaration of a state of emergency, the doctors union said on Saturday it had seen little response to its call to protect medical facilities and staff.

Sudan’s sovereign council said an urgent disarmament campaign would begin and a national force intended to replace UNAMID would be deployed to the area.

Reporting by Khalid Abdelaziz and Nafisa Eltahir; Additional reporting by Yousef Saba, Nayera Abdallah; Editing by Kirsten Donovan and Hugh Lawson

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