Unknown armed men have attempted to storm the residence of a provincial governor in Sudan’s Darfur region but were repelled by guards, according to officials.
There were no injuries or damage in the attempted attack on West Darfur Governor Mohammed Abdalla al-Douma’s residence in El Geneina, the capital of West Darfur state, but it underscored the heightened tensions in the restive region where a bout of inter-ethnic violence has killed more than 200 people since last week.
A military official, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorised to talk to reporters, was quoted as saying by The Associated Press news agency that the attackers opened fire on the heavily fortified residence, prompting the guards to return fire. The exchange lasted for more than an hour.
A statement from the governor on Wednesday said the incident sought to create “instability and chaos” in the province.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility, and the statement, published by the state-run Sudan News Agency (SUNA), did not say who the attackers were.
The governor and his staff are safe and were “unharmed”, the statement added.
Earlier this week, Sudanese government officials visited El Geneina to discuss the recent outbreak of violence with the governor.
The fighting between members of the Arab Rizeigat tribe and the non-Arab Massalit tribe grew out of a fistfight on Friday in a camp for displaced people. Some 159 people on both sides, including women and children, have been killed, according to a statement by the Central Committee of Sudan Doctors, a local branch of the country’s doctors’ union.
Among the dead in the West Darfur violence were three aid workers, the United Nations humanitarian coordinator for Sudan, Babacar Cisse, said on Wednesday.
He called for an end to the clashes and for those implicated to be held accountable. He did not provide more details.
The fighting also led to the displacement of at least 90,000 people, who have taken shelter in schools and government buildings and nearby villages, according to the UN.
Authorities in West Darfur imposed a 24-hour curfew in all of the province and authorised military and police to use “all necessary force” to regain order. The central government in Khartoum also deployed security reinforcements.
Separate clashes on Monday in South Darfur between members of the Fallata ethnic group and the Arab Rizeigat tribe killed at least 55 people and wounded 37.
Meanwhile, reports said the UN Security Council would hold an emergency meeting on Thursday over the situation in Darfur.
The meeting will be held behind closed doors and has been requested by three non-permanent members of the council – Norway, Ireland and Estonia – and three permanent members – the United States, Britain and France, AFP news agency quoted diplomats as saying.
The latest round of violence in Darfur poses a challenge to Sudan’s transitional government that has been struggling to end civil war in the country’s far-flung areas. It is also a major test of the government’s ability to protect civilians in the war-torn region following the end of the joint UN-African Union (UNAMID) peacekeeping force’s mandate in Darfur this month.
The latest events also follow the signing of a peace agreement between the government and multiple rebel forces in October, hoped to end years of war that left the region bitterly divided and awash with weapons.
Sudan is on a fragile path to democracy after a popular uprising led the military to overthrow longtime leader Omar al-Bashir in April 2019, after nearly three decades of rule. A joint military-civilian government is now in power.