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Darfur tribal fighting 'killed 510' in 7 weeks

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

More than 500 members of an Arab tribe in Sudan's war-ravaged Darfur region have been killed and almost 900 wounded in seven weeks of clashes, an MP representing the district said on Monday.

The toll is far higher than figures previously given for the fighting between the Rezeigat tribe and rival Arabs from the Beni Hussein group in the Jebel Amir gold mining area of North Darfur.

Aid workers say the fighting has caused the region's largest uprooting of the population in years.

"The number of martyrs from January 6 until February 23 is 510, including women and children. Another 865 were wounded," Adam Sheikha, a Beni Hussein member, told reporters. He said all of the casualties belonged to his tribe.

Sheikha is the federal parliamentary representative for El Sireaf district where the violence has been concentrated.

It is unclear how many Rezeigat were killed.

The MP added that since the start of the violence 68 villages had been burned to the ground, with 120 partly burned, and that 15 women were raped.

In the latest attack, on Saturday, residents in El Sireaf town said a Rezeigat militia fired heavy machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades, burned houses and killed more than 50 people.

Up to 200 died in January, according to Amnesty International which said Sudanese security officers were reportedly involved in the attacks.

Sheikha, of the ruling National Congress Party, said the militia who carried out the weekend assault "came on government vehicles carrying state-issued weapons and they got their salaries from the state."

On Tuesday Darfur marks 10 years since rebels from non-Arab tribes began an uprising against the Arab-dominated government.

But Darfur's top official, Eltigani Seisi, told AFP last week "the major issue" in the region now is not rebel attacks but "ethnic violence" such as that in Jebel Amir.

He admitted that government-linked militia in North Darfur have "committed atrocities against innocent civilians" but he said the armed groups are to be disbanded.

The UN said 1.4 million people were already living in camps for the displaced before the Jebel Amir violence.

It cited figures from the government's Humanitarian Aid Commission which said about 100,000 people had been displaced or severely affected by the inter-Arab fighting since January.

But Sheikha said 20,000 families had been uprooted, which would mean around 200,000 individuals.

The North Darfur state governor, Osman Kbir, confirmed that Rezeigat were responsible for last weekend's attack but said they had come from West and Central Darfur states.

Speaking in El Sireaf, he said security forces will "intervene strongly" to ensure peace between the two tribes.

"The situation will improve within two days. There is communication between both sides," Kbir said, quoted by the official SUNA news agency on Sunday.

str-it/sma

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130225/darfur-tribal-fighting-killed-510-7-weeks