Clashes in Sudan's Darfur region leave at least 43 people dead

CAIRO (AP) — Clashes in a refugee camp in Sudan's restive Darfur region left six people dead, U.N.-African Union peacekeepers said Saturday, days after violence elsewhere in the area claimed the lives of at least 37 people dead.

The spokesman for the UNAMID mission, Chris Cycmanick, said the fighting took place in the Hamidia refugee camp in West Darfur late Friday night and continued intermittently through to Saturday morning.

According to witnesses in the camp, the clashes between different groups in the camp left six people dead, Cycmanick said. Thirty-three people were wounded.

It was not immediately clear what sparked the violence.

Ibrahim al-Helw, a spokesman for a Darfur rebel group in the area, blamed government-allied gunmen for the fighting. He said 10 people were killed and 29 wounded.

The clashes come less than two weeks after the U.N. Security Council called for the demilitarization of the camps in Darfur, which serve as a temporary home to hundreds of thousands of displaced people.

The U.N. appeal was spurred by similar violence in another refugee camp between that left five people dead. Humanitarian workers were barred from the camps for two weeks after the clashes.

Fighting in Darfur that began with a 2003 rebellion by groups who accused the government of neglecting the vast desert region. The conflict has left up to 300,000 people dead and forced 2.7 million to flee their homes — many to camps in Sudan's vast western region, according to U.N. figures.

U.N. officials remain concerned about the presence of weapons and armed groups inside the camps.

While violence has tapered off in recent years, there have been growing signs of unrest in Darfur since President Omar al-Bashir won another five-year term in April elections. The international criminal court in The Hague has charged al-Bashir with war crimes and genocide for the conflict in Darfur.

Fighting between the government and disparate rebel groups has at times been fueled by attempts to revive peace talks, although negotiations have stalled because of a lack of trust.

Al-Helw, who is a spokesman for the Sudan Liberation Army, a Darfur rebel group that refuses to join the stalled peace talks, said government-allied militia stormed a local market on Thursday, firing indiscriminately at shoppers.

He said more than 80 people, including women and children, were killed in the attack. He accused a government-allied militia of whisking the bodies of the dead away in a truck.

Cycmanick said peacekeepers were unable to reach the market area until Saturday because rebel fighters turned the patrol away, citing tension in the area. The UNAMID force was later able to verify from eyewitnesses that 37 people were killed and 30 were injured.

There was no immediate government comment on the reports.