At least 213 people were killed in three days of violence between Arab and non-Arab groups in Sudan’s West Darfur, the state governor said, giving the first official toll for recent clashes.
West Darfur has been gripped by days of deadly fighting largely centered in Krink, a locality of nearly 500,000 people and mostly inhabited by the African Massalit tribe.
“This massive crime left around 201 killed and 103 wounded” on Sunday alone, said West Darfur governor Khamees Abkar in a video published late Tuesday.
The violence first broke out on Friday and escalated when armed men attacked villages of the non-Arab Massalit in retaliation for the killing of two tribesmen, according to the General Coordination for Refugees and Displaced in Darfur, an independent aid group.
At least eight people were killed on Friday, Abkar said, confirming a death toll for that day already reported by the aid group.
The state governor blamed government forces tasked with securing Krink and its environs for “withdrawing without any justification” as the main attacks began early Sunday.
Krink town “was completely destroyed including government institutions,” Abkar said. “It is a crime against humanity.”
The fighting on Monday spread to Geneina, the provincial capital of West Darfur.
Witnesses have accused the Janjaweed militia of orchestrating the violence.
The Janjaweed was an Arab militia that gained notoriety for its role in the repression of an ethnic minority rebellion in Darfur in the early 2000s under then autocrat Omar al-Bashir.
According to rights groups, many of its members were later integrated into the feared paramilitary Rapid Support Forces, commanded by General Mohamed Hamdan Daglo, now de facto deputy leader of Sudan.
The General Coordination for Refugees and Displaced in Darfur on Monday reported a combined death toll of 180 for the fighting around Krink and in Geneina, including four killed in the state capital on Monday.
Abkar on Wednesday confirmed to AFP that four were killed on Monday, taking the total toll to at least 213.
On Tuesday, Doctors Without Borders, known by the French acronym MSF, said several medical workers were killed in the fighting as hospitals were attacked.
Consequently, “MSF teams have not been able to reach the health facilities we support nor conduct mobile clinic activities” in Geneina and cannot return to Krink, the aid group said in a statement.
The conflict in Darfur that began in 2003 killed more than 300,000 people and displaced 2.5 million, according to the UN.
The region remains awash with weapons and has seen a renewed spike in deadly violence in recent months triggered by disputes mainly over land, livestock, and access to water and grazing.
The latest violence comes as Sudan grapples with the fallout from a coup in October last year led by army chief Abdel Fattah al-Burhan.