Clashes between rival groups in Sudan’s Darfur have killed at least 168 people, an aid group said, in the latest bout of deadly violence to hit the restive region.
The fighting erupted on Friday in the Krink region of West Darfur, said Adam Regal, spokesperson for the General Coordination for Refugees and Displaced in Darfur, an independent aid group.
He said 160 people were killed on Sunday and at least 98 others wounded so far, voicing fears that the death toll could rise as fighting was still ongoing.
The violence broke out when armed tribesmen attacked villages of the non-Arab Massalit minority in retaliation for the killing of two tribesmen, the aid group said.
At least eight people were killed on Friday, it added.
On Sunday, a tribal leader from the Massalit minority described seeing multiple bodies in villages of the Krink region, which lies some 80 kilometres from West Darfur’s provincial capital, Geneina.
The International Committee of the Red Cross called on authorities to ensure the safe arrival of the wounded to hospitals.
The Darfur Bar Association said that some 20,000 people had been displaced by the violence.
Janjaweed blamed for attacks
Images posted online on Sunday showed burning houses sending plumes of thick black smoke to the sky, while others showed round patches of scorched earth where huts had stood before they were set alight.
AFP news agency could not independently verify the authenticity of the images.
On Sunday, the aid group accused the Arab Janjaweed militants of orchestrating the latest attacks.
Regal said the militants have in recent weeks “committed killings, burning, lootings, and torture without mercy”.
Western Darfur is home to many of the people displaced by the early-2000s conflict in the region, which saw the government put down armed rebels with help from nomadic Arab militias known as the Janjaweed.
Some 2.5 million people were displaced in the violence and 300,000 were killed. Former president Omar al Bashir is wanted by the International Criminal Court on war crimes charges. The trial for one of his aides, known as Ali Kushayb, began earlier this month.
Large-scale fighting has subsided across much of Darfur but the region remains awash with weapons and deadly clashes often erupt mainly over access to pasture or water.
In recent months, scores of people have been killed and hundreds of houses torched in several bouts of violence in Darfur, according to the UN and medics.
The latest violence has reflected a broader security breakdown in Darfur following last year’s military coup led by army chief Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, that derailed a transition to full civilian rule following Bashir’s ouster.