Fighting erupts in Sudan's Darfur region

Fresh fighting erupted between Arab tribes in Sudan's troubled Darfur region.

Thousands of displaced refugees from Sudan. Picture: AFP

KHARTOUM - New fighting erupted between Arab tribes in Sudan's troubled Darfur region, tribal leaders said on Saturday, threatening to displace more people after clashes last month killed more than 100 and forced around 130,000 to flee.

Law and order has collapsed in swathes of the arid western region since mainly non-Arab tribes revolted against the Arab government in Khartoum in 2003, accusing it of neglect.

Violence has ebbed since 2004 but picked up again in recent months. Arab tribes, armed by the government to help quell the Darfur insurgency, have turned their guns on each other in battles for control of a gold mine and other resources, while banditry has spread across the vast region.

Fighting broke out in January between the Bani Hussein and Rizeigat tribes over the mine in Jebel Amer in North Darfur, displacing 100,000 people, according to the United Nations. Clashes between the army and a rebel group in central Darfur forced another 30,000 to flee.

On Saturday, a Bani Hussein leader said Rizeigat fighters attacked El Sireaf in North Darfur from three fronts, killing 53 people and wounding 83. Fighting had started on Thursday, breaking a ceasefire mediated by tribal leaders in January.

"The attack lasted for several hours," the tribal leader said, asking not to be named. "Then the army arrived and helped repulse the attack but until now no medical aid has arrived to treat our wounded."

Army spokesman al-Sawarmi Khalid could not be reached for comment but a Rizeigat leader confirmed fighting in the area.

"Unfortunately new fighting broke out but this is not violence between the Rizeigat and the Bani Hussein," said Mohammed Aissa Aliu, a Rizeigat leader.

He said the attackers were militias armed by the government. "They were armed and left to themselves. The government is responsible for what is happening."

In 2003, Khartoum armed and unleashed Arab tribes to help put down the insurgency of African tribes.

Human rights groups and the United Nations estimate hundreds of thousands of people have died in the Darfur conflict. The government says around 10,000 people have been killed.

The International Criminal Court has issued arrest warrants for Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir and some aides to face charges of masterminding war crimes in Darfur. They deny the charges and refuse to recognise the court.

Events in Darfur are hard to verify as Sudan restricts travel by journalists, aid workers and diplomats. Authorities denied Reuters in January a travel permit to attend a government-sponsored disarmament conference in West Darfur.