At least 48 people died and 97 people were injured in a militia attack on the West Darfur city of El Geneina on Saturday, Sudan’s state news agency SUNA said, citing a local doctors union.
The attack came just weeks after UN peacekeepers began withdrawing from the region, where violence is increasing, and was triggered when a member of the Masalit tribe stabbed a member of an Arab tribe, human rights organisation the Darfur Bar Association said in a statement.
“Armed militias took advantage of the incident and attacked El Geneina from all sides,” the association said, as well as the nearby Kreinding camp for internally displaced people, from where SUNA said there was now a wave of people moving towards the city.
The association accused the militias of looting and human rights abuses.
Similar incidents have occurred in Darfur since the conflict began in 2003 when the government of Omar al-Bashir armed militias to help repress a revolt.
“We have warned several times about the deteriorating security situation in Darfur … as armed militias still pose a constant threat,” a coordinating committee for IDP camp residents said in a statement.
Camp residents have protested the exit of UNAMID, the peacekeeping mission that had patrolled the region until its mandate ended on January 1.
On Saturday, the governor of West Darfur declared a state of emergency, authorising the use of force in order to stabilise the situation and imposing a curfew.
While the military had begun to deploy, the bar association said the commander for the region had not responded to the state governor’s directives.
The West Darfur doctors union said it had asked for help protecting medical facilities and staff, but called the response “weak”, SUNA reported.
Sudan’s civilian Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok has dispatched a high-level group led by the public prosecutor to El Geneina, his office said in a statement.