Six killed in Darfur camp shoot-out

Gunmen shot dead six people and injured 33 in clashes at a refugee camp in Sudan’s Darfur region on Saturday, peacekeepers said.

Darfur’s joint United Nations/African Union (UNamid) peacekeeping force said gunfire had broken out at the Hamidiya camp, close to the town of Zalingei in West Darfur state, early on Saturday morning.

More than seven years of fighting in the arid region has driven more than two million people to take shelter in ramshackle camps that are dependent on aid agencies for food and water.

Many camps have become highly politicised, and the government in Khartoum has accused some camp leaders of stockpiling weapons and harbouring fighters for rebel groups who took up arms against the government in 2003.

UNamid said it did not know who was behind the incident.

A government official from Zalingei, who asked not to be named, said a group of refugees backing Darfur’s faltering peace talks had attacked supporters of a group that opposed them.

The rebel Sudan Liberation Army (SLA) led by Abdel Wahed el-Nur is one group boycotting the talks.

But the SLA denied any rebel splits were behind the fighting and accused Sudanese security forces of launching the attack.

“They [the government] are using this talk of a split as a cover. This is part of the government’s policy of destroying civilians that has been going on since the beginning of the conflict,” SLA spokesperson Ibrahim al-Helwu said from Paris.

Divisions are deep over the talks in Qatar, which have made little progress in the absence of the two main rebel groups.

The anonymous government official said: “Abdel Wahed’s supporters forced a group supporting the talks to leave the camp recently, and that group came back with armed men for revenge.”

UNamid spokesperson Chris Cycmanick said: “A UNamid mission went in and found six people were killed, three seriously injured in a critical condition and 30 others wounded ... We don’t know who was behind it.”

UNamid had earlier said seven died.

The clashes came two days after the SLA said pro-government fighters had killed up to 54 people at a market in North Darfur’s Tabarat village. Most of the reported victims were residents of a nearby refugee camp.

A UN official who asked not to be named said Tabarat residents had told peacekeepers on Saturday the assault had been provoked by a dispute over grazing rights—the attackers had said livestock from the area had strayed on to their territory.

There has also been growing tension in Kalma camp, home to up to 82 000 people outside Nyala, the capital of South Darfur state.

The government in Khartoum is demanding that UNamid hand over six Darfuris whom it accuses of instigating clashes in Kalma in late July in which at least five people died. UNamid has refused to do so without seeing evidence of their crimes and guarantees that they will have a fair trial.

Mostly non-Arab Darfuris took up arms in early 2003, accusing Khartoum of neglect.

The government responded by mobilising mostly Arab militias, who have been accused of a campaign of rape, murder and looting that created one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises. - Reuters

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