Top UN peacekeeper in Sudan regrets new Darfur clashes

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The chief of the UN peacekeeping force in Darfur on Sunday expressed regret over recent clashes in Sudan's western war-torn region, which he said has left villages burnt and people displaced.

The latest fighting, in the Jebel Marra mountains, came despite a ceasefire unilaterally announced by Khartoum in March, applying to Darfur and another conflict in Blue Nile and South Kordofan states.

The fighting had erupted in Jebel Marra between the Sudanese government forces and the Sudan Liberation Army-Abdul Wahid rebel group, said the African Union-United Nations joint peacekeeping mission in Darfur, also known as UNAMID.

"UNAMID appeals to all parties involved to exercise restraint and resolve all outstanding issues through dialogue and the peace process," UNAMID chief Jeremiah Mamabolo said in a statement issued after he visited the mission's temporary operating base in the town of Golo in Jebel Marra.

"We particularly regret the new displacements and the burning of villages such as Gobbo, Kawara, Kimingtong in South Darfur as well as other villages in the Rokero locality in Central Darfur."

Washington too had condemned the fighting, which it said has resulted in thousands of new displacement of civilians.

An insurgency began in Darfur in 2003, as rebels rose up against Sudan's government, accusing it of marginalization.

Khartoum cracked down on rebels and since then insurgent groups have fragmented, with fighting punctuated by periods of relative calm.

Khartoum restricts international media access to Darfur, an area about the size of France, so it is not possible to independently verify the details of fighting there.

In recent years the level of violence has significantly dropped across Darfur, with Khartoum insisting that the conflict has ended in the region.

The UNAMID mission too is being downscaled, now standing at around 10,000 uniformed personnel from a peak of about 27,000.

The United Nations says that over the years the conflict has killed about 300,000 people and displaced more than 2.5 million, with many having set up home over the last decade and a half in sprawling semi-permanent camps.

A separate conflict erupted in South Kordofan and Blue Nile, both bordering South Sudan, in 2011.

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