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‘Scorched earth’ in Darfur’s East Jebel Marra

January 5 - 2015 EAST JEBEL MARRA / TAWILA
A burning village in Darfur (Brian Steidle)
A burning village in Darfur (Brian Steidle)

Militia troops of the Rapid Support Forces (RSF), and militiamen on camels and horses have begun ‘cleansing’ villages and water resources in the areas north of East Jebel Marra after government forces gained control over the area of Fanga, about 30 km northwest of Shangil Tobaya, North Darfur. The sweep, which began on Thursday evening, intensified on Friday and Saturday, backed by fighter jets of the Sudanese Air Force.

“The operations are taking the shape of a scorched earth policy,” multiple sources told Dabanga. “They are removing the entire population of East Jebel Marra, Tawila locality, extended to parts of Kutum, Kabkabiya, and Saraf Umra localities in North Darfur,” one of them said. “This is one of the fiercest attacks and largest organised robbery in the recent history of Darfur.”

The ‘cleansing operations’ have led to the displacement of thousands of villagers. They sought refuge in the area of Tabit in Tawila locality, after they were robbed of all their belongings and their livestock, the sources reported.

Villages plundered

The sources described how a large group of RSF militia arrived in the area of Abu Zerega, south of El Fasher, capital of North Darfur, on Friday and Saturday. “They came in groups in a total of 90 vehicles, and began ravaging and plundering 37 villages,” they reported. “About 3,700 villagers fled towards Zamzam camp for the displaced near El Fasher, while 11 herders and five women are missing.”

“Some 3,460 camels, 1,780 cows, and 3,460 sheep and goats were stolen,” one of them reported. “We saw the militia convoy leaving from a distance. They were slowed-down by the livestock.”

“This is one of the fiercest attacks and largest organised robbery in the recent history of Darfur.”

Nine women killed

In the village of Tamarawa, 3 km south of Fanga, nine women were killed by bullets from a 50-calibre Dushka machinegun. They attempted to prevent the attackers from taking 4,000 cows belonging to the villagers. “They are Hawa Idris Musa, Dar Naim Yahya Saleh, Om Kalsoum Adam Musa, Saadia and Kubra Yagoub Haroun, Maryam Yousef Omar, Aisha Yousef Suleiman, and Zahra Abdallah,” a source from Tamarawa mentioned.

Militiamen led by Badur Abu Kineish raided and pillaged a number of other villages in Tawila locality. “They have been pillaging the houses since Friday. They stole thousands of livestock, including the donkeys,” a villager told Radio Dabanga from Rwanda camp in Tawila, where he arrived with his family on Saturday. “Most of the people fled to the three camps for the displaced near Tawila town.”

Omda Mukhtar Bosh, coordinator of the Tawila camps, reported that the people who arrived at the camps are in a dire humanitarian condition. “They have not only lost all they owned, but they were beaten, assaulted, and raped. “Two young women aged 15 and 18 were gang-raped. They were transferred to a hospital in El Fasher for treatment.

“The situation at the camps is not very secure either. The militias are coming closer, as they attack nearby villages.”

War crime

He added that a group of militiamen raided the market of Tawila on Saturday afternoon. “Fortunately, army forces prevented them from plundering the market. But some 10,000 people fled the town and sought refuge at the nearby Unamid base.”

Residents of Kutum locality reported that they saw a convoy of about 20 Land Cruisers with RSF militiamen, and 60 gunmen on camels and horses, passing with about 3,000 head of cattle. “They came from the south, and went into the direction of the El Guba military garrison.”

Hussein Abu Sharati, chairman of the Darfur Displaced and Refugees Association, stated to Radio Dabanga that the attacks on civilians in East Jebel Marra “constitute a war crime, and a crime against humanity”.

He confirmed that “at least 45 villages in East Jebel Marra have been pillaged and emptied of their residents. Another 15 villages burned down to ashes.  Tens of thousands of people have fled towards the north, to the camps near Tawila and Tabit, or are hiding in the mountains and valleys.”

Abu Sharati demanded from “the UN, UN Security Council, Unamid, and human rights organisations to take immediate action to protect the civilians in Darfur”.

“The international community should also establish a fact-finding mission to investigate the range of the attacks.”

He urged the UN and relief organisations to provide emergency aid to the newly displaced “as soon as possible”.

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