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Darfur: Jebel Marra villagers flee to mountain top

January 18 - 2016 NIERTETI / JEBEL MARRA
Mount Jebel Marra as seen from Namuli village (Robert Lankenau)
Mount Jebel Marra as seen from Namuli village (Robert Lankenau)

Aerial bombardments are continuing on the fourth day of a large government offensive on a rebel stronghold in Darfur’s Jebel Marra. 34 villages have reportedly been abandoned. More than 750 families have fled high up into the mountain.

The market of Nierteti, southwest of the Jebel Marra area, has been closed since Saturday, because of the proliferation of army and militia troops in the town.

Residents of Nierteti confirmed to Radio Dabanga today that explosions are still being heard. The hospital of Kas, on the Nierteti-Nyala road, received a number of wounded government-backed militiamen on Sunday. They were given first aid treatment, then transferred to the South Darfur capital of Nyala.

The sources said that the markets in the vicinity of Kas are closed too. The Nierteti-Kas road is closed, as are many other roads leading to Jebel Marra.

“Security forces do not allow any vehicle to approach or pass Jebel Marra,” one of them said.

He reported that 34 villages in Jebel Marra have been abandoned. “The villagers fled high into the mountains, as all roads leading to lower places are closed by government troops.”

Another source said that in the western part of Jebel Marra, more than 750 families were driven from their homes. They also sought refuge in areas high in the mountains.

Bombing

Four people were killed when an Antonov aircraft dropped three barrel bombs on the village of Keina on Saturday. No casualties were reported after the Antonov targeted Jebel Deldo with four bombs.

On Sunday, an air raid on the village of Wedio led to the injury of four people. Tori village was hit by two barrel bombs.

Fleeing villagers further told Radio Dabanga that the Sudanese Air Force also bombarded the basic school of Kouro and the Sheikh Mukhtar Koran school near the village. Both buildings burned to the ground.

‘Inner Jebel Marra’

The ‘inner Jebel Marra area’ (OCHA Jebel Marra Fact Sheet as of 30 September 2015)

The Jebel Marra massif lies at the centre of the Darfur region, bordering the state divisions of Central, South and North Darfur. It is a fertile region inhabited mainly by the Fur tribe and has since 2003 been the primary stronghold of the SLM-AW.

It is the only place in Darfur where armed opposition maintains prolonged control over territory and the only area in Darfur to which humanitarian organisations had no access between 2011 and 2015.

Parts of the centre of the massif, the ‘inner Jebel Marra area’, are controlled by the Sudanese government [blue] and parts by SLM-AW rebels [orange].

Main obstacles to free and regular access to the area include restrictions by the parties to the conflict, preventing humanitarian organisations from entering both government and rebel-controlled areas.

According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) in Sudan, there are about 365,000 people living in the greater Jebel Marra area. Approximately one third of them -120,000 people- live in the inner Jebel Marra.


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