Sudan orders use of military to stop Darfur tribal fighting

CAIRO (AP) — A top Sudanese general ordered Friday the use of military force to prevent further tribal violence in the province of South Darfur, after fighting there killed at least 45 people in recent days.

Gen. Mohammed Hamdan Dagalo, the country’s second-in-command, said local authorities should “strike with an iron fist“ any who violate the law. In a statement carried by state media, he authorized the implementation of emergency law and the dispersal of any tribal gatherings in the troubled region. However, his language also sparked fears of more fighting.

Sudan’s Darfur region has seen bouts of deadly clashes between rival tribes in recent months as the country remains mired in a wider crisis following last year’s coup, when top generals overthrew a civilian-led government.

The military takeover upended plans for a democratic transition, resulting in near-daily street protests in many Sudanese cities and towns.

According to South Darfur’s security council, of the 45 killed in the past few days, 30 were civilians. A council statement, published by local media, said the fighting started in the province’s Sarqila area after an attack last Saturday on a vehicle belonging to an officer with the Rapid Support Forces, a powerful paramilitary run by Dagalo.

The officer, of the Arab Rezagit tribe, was killed, and a subsequent raid on the suspected attackers’ village, believed to be from the non-Arab Falata tribe, sparked deadly fighting.

Since the 2019 overthrow of longtime autocrat Omar al-Bashir and his Islamist government, Sudan has faced multiple challenges — including deteriorating security conditions in places such as the war-wrecked Darfur. In 2020, the United Nations closed its peacekeeping mission to Darfur, leading to fears that without a strong state presence, violence would return.

The yearslong Darfur conflict broke out when rebels from the territory’s ethnic central and sub-Saharan African community launched an insurgency in 2003, complaining of oppression by the Arab-dominated government in the capital, Khartoum.

Al-Bashir’s government responded with a campaign of aerial bombings and raids by the janjaweed militias, which have been accused of mass killings and rapes. Up to 300,000 people were killed and 2.7 million were driven from their homes in Darfur over the years.

Al-Bashir, who has been in prison in Khartoum since his ouster, also faces international charges of genocide and crimes against humanity related to the Darfur conflict.

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