Violent Deaths in Darfur: July
According to the incidents reported by the different branches of UNAMID, forty people were killed by violence during the month of July. There are further reports of fatalities in areas controlled by the SLA-Abdel Wahid, as yet not investigated, which may increase the toll. As usual, the figures reported are not official and should not be taken as definitive.
All indications are that July’s pattern of violence is similar to recent months. It is a mixture of criminal and political violence. Fortunately, the inter-tribal fighting among Arab groups in South Darfur remains at a low level, despite the fact that one of the key reconciliation efforts (between Fellata and Habbaniya) has not succeeded.
There has been skirmishing between JEM and Sudan Government forces and also spillover from the Chadian conflict. Three incidents indicate what has been happening.
(1) At the end of June (but only reported in July and so for our purposes included in the July figures), a rebel unit in Hashaba, north-west of Kutum, formerly aligned with SLA-Unity, decided to join JEM. The Sudanese government forces responded with aerial bombing and a ground attack. The number of fatalities is not known. But as the unit was small (forty fighters) and dispersed rapidly in a thinly populated area, it is unlikely that there was a large number of casualties.
(2) Occasional sorties by aircraft in contested areas of north-west Darfur have continued. In Ina village, south-east of Umm Beru, two children were confirmed as having been injured by an Antonov bombardment, which also killed fourteen animals, on 19 July.
(3) A few days earlier, Chadian helicopters crossed the border at Um Dukhn, in the southern part of West Darfur, and fired rockets, presumably intending to target Chadian opposition armed groups. Reports from the local people indicate that there were no casualties.
There is a regular trickle of reports of bandit and criminal attacks including livestock thefts, carjackings, revenge killings, and other homicides that cannot immediately be explained (totaling ten). Unexploded ordnance claimed another life. Five IDPs were killed during the month.
Many of the incidents cannot be easily categorized as either criminal attacks or as armed confrontations between belligerents, but fall somewhere in between.
The largest single incident of violent deaths during the month was fighting between the SLA-Minawi and the SLA-Free Will groups in the vicinity of Korma and Kafod, along the road between al Fashir and Kutum. The main clashes occurred in the last days of June but were reported in July, and indicate seventeen fatalities among civilians and several villages burned, with 6,000 people displaced. There is a recent history of violent clashes between these groups in this area, related to a contest to control the road and its financially lucrative checkpoints, as well as the nearby grazing lands.
Another string of violent incidents involved armed conflict between the army and the SLA-Abdel Wahid in mountainous areas on the north-western flanks of Jebel Marra. Four SLA combatants were confirmed killed but villagers also reported seeing unburied corpses lying in villages. This appears to have been the outcome of a government attempt to suppress SLA attacks on commercial vehicles.
In Nyala, a clash between the army and the Border Intelligence left one soldier and two militiamen dead. This was the outcome of an army operation to suppress a militia unit engaging in illicit trade.
When the UNAMID Joint Mission Analysis Centre produces its definitive figures for July, and combines these with the data for prior months, we should obtain a more complete picture and a better understanding of the patterns and trends.