A major city in Sudan’s Darfur region has been under fierce attack – days after thousands of people arrived there seeking safety after their own town was set ablaze by horse-riding Arab militias known as Janjaweed.
“For the first time in Geneina’s history, the hospital has been completely evacuated. All health institutions in the city were closed,” the country’s Central Committee for Sudanese Doctors says on Twitter.
Even during the height of the Darfur conflict that started in 2003 – a war that had left about 300,000 people dead and more than two million homeless – Geneina’s hospital in West Darfur kept operating.
An aid worker in Geneina told the BBC that he and his colleagues were staying at a safe house and gunfire could be heard across the city.
Many families who already lived in camps in the south of the city after fleeing from the Janjaweed in the past were panicking and leaving their makeshift accommodation.
The recent violence began 80km (50 miles) east of Geneina in Kreinik on Friday and more than 200 have been killed in clashes.
The fighting was caused by a dispute between Arab nomads and members of the Massalit community, who have clashed over land for decades.
It began after two Arab nomads were killed near Kreinik, a town that has become home to many displaced ethnic black Massalit communities over the last two decades – people who were driven from their rural villages by Janjaweed raids.
In retaliation for the nomads’ deaths, early on Friday morning, Arab fighters raided Kreinik, leaving nine people dead and 16 injured.
Then on Sunday, a more co-ordinated attack was launched, this time backed by Sudan’s Rapid Support Force (RSF), a paramilitary force that grew out of the Janjaweed.
The attackers arrived in 4×4 vehicles mounted with machine guns known as “technicals”, motorbikes, camels and horses, a statement issued by the Kreinik Voluntary Youth group said.
An unverified video shared on social media showed a large group of Arab fighters on pick-up trucks and motorcycles as they set on their way to attack. Men in RSF fatigues could be seen in the clip.
The town was set alight and local sources said schools and clinics were not spared – six teachers were killed in the raid. -BBC