The United Nations has airlifted its non-essential staff out of El Fasher in north Darfur as tensions between militias and rebel fighters worsen.
The UN said that it was prepared to make further evacuations if the risk of fighting between Janjawid militias and rebel fighters grew. It follows a warning from the African Union that rebel groups could attack the capital city within 24 hours.
«The rationale behind the decision is the heightened security concerns we have as a result of the increased presence of the Janjawid in the town of El Fasher and other armed groups in the area,» Radhia Achouri, UN spokeswoman in Sudan, told Reuters.
The UN withdrew 134 non-essential staff from El Fasher last night – 82 of them were its own workers and the rest were from other agencies working in the city.
Witnesses said Janjawid entered El Fasher on Monday and began looting the cattle market before clashing with members of the Sudan Liberation Movement’s armed wing. Two SLM fighters and two militias were killed in the battle.
Meanwhile, Jan Egeland, the United Nations under-secretary-general for humanitarian affairs, said that his biggest regret was that global leaders had not come together to settle the conflict sooner.
«We have kept people alive, but we haven’t protected them, and as I’m going out, I regret to say we’re in a free fall again,» said Mr Egeland, who steps down on December 12.
He blamed the Sudanese government, parts of the rebel movement, ethnic leaders in Darfur, and the government of Chad for fuelling the war, which began in 2003 when rebels from ethnic African tribes rose up against the Arab-led central government.