Toll in Sudan clashes rises to 87 dead: Darfur medics

Khartoum (AFP) –


Five days of fighting in Sudan's West Darfur region has left at least 87 people dead, medics said Wednesday, with thousands fleeing the latest outbreak of violence.

"The committee has recorded a new toll of ... a total of 87 dead and 191 injured," the West Darfur Doctors' Committee said, after clashes involving gunfire and shelling in El Geneina, state capital of West Darfur.

The last toll issued late Tuesday by the United Nations had stood at 56.

Fighting between the Massalit and the Arab communities broke out on Saturday, with thousands fleeing the latest outbreak of violence, some escaping into neighbouring Chad, according to the United Nations.

El Geneina residents and the UN have reported days of fighting including gunfire and shelling, with a power station destroyed, an ambulance attacked and a rocket-propelled grenade hitting the key Sultan Tajeldin Hospital.

Other hospitals were also damaged in the fighting.

The Doctors' Committee said it condemned "in the strongest terms" attacks against hospitals and staff, calling them "barbaric behaviour which cannot be justified under any circumstances".

It is the latest outbreak between the communities since January, which has forced over 100,000 people to flee their homes, according to the UN.

The government on Monday declared a state of emergency and deployed troops to West Darfur.

The UN said it had suspended flights and aid operations to the city, a key hub for humanitarian assistance -- a decision the world body said would affect upwards of 700,000 people.

On Tuesday, the UN warned that the "inter-communal violence further deteriorates an already dire situation for vulnerable people."

The vast Darfur region was ravaged by a civil war that erupted in 2003, leaving around 300,000 people dead and 2.5 million displaced, according to the UN.

It flared when ethnic minority rebels rose up against dictator Omar al-Bashir's Arab-dominated government.

Khartoum responded by unleashing a notorious Arab-dominated militia known as the Janjaweed, recruited from among the region's nomadic tribes.

The conflict has subsided over the years, and the latest in a string of peace deals was agreed in October.

But after years of conflict, the region is awash with automatic weapons and clashes still erupt, often over land and access to water.

Residents long displaced during the worst years of the war are returning to find others have occupied their lands.

Sudan is in the midst of a rocky transition following the toppling of long-time president Omar al-Bashir in April 2019, following mass protests against his rule.

The transitional government has pushed to build peace with rebel groups in Sudan's main conflict zones, including Darfur.

Bashir is wanted by the International Criminal Court on charges of genocide during the Darfur conflict.