CAIRO, Egypt – Pro-government militiamen launched new attacks in Sudan’s Darfur region that may have killed at least a dozen people, international observers said Sunday.
A coalition of Darfur rebel groups known as the National Redemption Front said some 300 janjaweed militiamen on camels and horseback raided the West Darfur town of Sirba on Saturday, backed by 18 military vehicles.
“The attack resulted in 32 dead, 18 injured including women and children,” the NRF said. The rebels said janjaweed militias and elements from the regular Sudanese army burned about 100 houses and looted hundreds of heads of cattle.
A U.N. official in Darfur said the janjaweed had looted several villages and a refugee camp in the past few days, reportedly killing about 12 people. The official spoke on condition of anonymity.
African Union peacekeepers in Darfur said they were investigating the reports of fresh janjaweed raids near Sirba.
“Our investigators are heading there to confirm the reports,” Hassan Gibril, the deputy head of the AU mission, said by telephone from Darfur.
The casualty figures from the rebels could not be independently verified, and Sudanese government officials were not immediately available to comment on the accusations.
The government in Khartoum has denied backing the janjaweed, blamed for the worst atrocities in more than three years of conflict in Darfur. But U.N. investigators say the government has armed the militia, and members of the paramilitary group have acknowledged receiving state support.
The U.N. blamed janjaweed militiamen for killing 50 people, including 27 children, in the Jebel Moon area of West Darfur in late October. A Sudanese government investigation blamed “renegade Arab tribesmen” for the killing.
More than 200,000 people have been killed and 2.5 million displaced since the Darfur conflict began in February 2003, when ethnic African tribesmen took up arms against the Arab-led government in Khartoum.
A peace agreement signed by the government and one rebel group in May has been ignored, and the violence has since escalated.