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Amid mounting concern in North Darfur, UN temporarily relocates non-essential staff

Amid mounting concern in North Darfur, UN temporarily relocates non-essential staff

The United Nations and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) have temporarily relocated their non-essential staff from the North Darfur provincial capital of El Fasher amid heightened security concerns because of recent clashes between militia groups and other armed movements.

In a news update from Khartoum, the UN Mission in Sudan (UNMIS) reported that a total of 134 staff (comprising 82 from the UN and 42 from NGOs) were relocated last night to the Sudanese capital.

About 200 UN staff and many NGO workers have stayed behind in El Fasher to ensure that humanitarian operations in the area can continue, and the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said there should no be significant impact on the delivery of relief and assistance.

UNMIS stated that at least eight people were killed on Monday in clashes between an Arab militia and a section of the Sudan Liberation Army (SLA) linked to the leader Minni Minawi. The clashes took place after the militia invaded El Fasher’s cattle market, opening fire and harassing locals.

Citing information from the African Union (AU), which conducts the peace operation in Darfur known as AMIS, the Mission said the security situation inside El Fasher remains extremely tense, with gunshots heard yesterday, most shops closed, and few people out on the streets. There are also reports circulating of a possible attack on the town by a coalition of rebel forces.

The clashes in and around El Fasher follow a reported series of attacks by Government forces and an allied militia on a North Darfur village on Friday and Saturday that culminated in the burning of the homes and the looting of the residents’ livestock.

More than 200,000 people are estimated to have been killed and another 2 million forced to flee their homes because of fighting across Darfur, a vast and impoverished region on Sudan’s western flank, since 2003.