UN, AU urge Darfur troop deployment to protect civilians after wave of deadly attacks

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The joint UN-African Union mission in Sudan’s war-torn Darfur region urged the government Tuesday to deploy troops there “as soon as possible” following a wave of deadly attacks on civilians.

The UNAMID call came a day after the United Nations reported a massacre of more than 60 people in the impoverished region.

On Sunday, Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok said the government would send security forces to the western desert region to “protect citizens and the farming season.”

UNAMID said Tuesday that it “hopes that this force will be fully deployed as soon as possible and will be adequately equipped and trained to protect all residents of Darfur without exception.”

“The civilian population in Darfur has endured enough suffering, and they deserve to live in peace and tranquility without fear of being attacked,” it said in a statement.

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Conflict broke out in the region in 2003 when ethnic minority rebels staged an uprising against the government of then-president Omar al-Bashir, citing marginalization and discrimination.

Khartoum responded by unleashing the feared Janjaweed militia, mainly recruited from Arab pastoralist tribes, in a scorched earth campaign that left 300,000 people dead and displaced 2.5 million.

Violence in Darfur has eased since al-Bashir’s ouster by the army amid mass protests against his rule last year.

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The new government and a coalition of rebel groups including Darfur factions had signed a preliminary peace deal in January.

But the UN’s humanitarian coordination office OCHA has reported a wave of violence over recent days, with villages burned and markets and shops looted.

The attacks have sparked protests by residents demanding authorities step in to protect them.

Interior Minister Altraifi Idriss said Sunday that troops based in Khartoum would be sent to Darfur with a mandate to “use force to protect civilians and their properties.”

Analysts say the new wave of deadly violence is an attempt to sabotage the country’s fragile transition after the fall of al-Bashir, who is accused of genocide over the conflict.

In Saturday’s assault, hundreds of armed men in pickup trucks descended on Masteri, a town largely inhabited by farmers from non-Arab minority groups, some 50 kilometers (30 miles) from the West Darfur state capital El Geneina.

The attackers looted and torched houses, killing more than 60 people, including eight women, mostly from the Masalit ethnic group, it said.

The vast arid region has seen persistent conflict over land and water, with nomadic Arab herding tribes clashing with minority African farming communities that largely depend on cereals, tobacco and oranges.

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