AFRICANGLOBE – Elite Sudanese troops have been deployed in Sudan’s second largest city after days of fighting among members of the security forces, as residents begin the Muslim month of Ramadaan in fear of new clashes.
An AFP correspondent was the first from a foreign news organisation to arrive in Nyala, the capital of South Darfur state, since the worst outbreak of urban warfare in Sudan’s far-west region in recent memory.
Most fighting in Darfur has occurred in poverty-stricken rural regions and smaller communities.
State officials blamed “differences” among members of the security forces for the battles which began inside Nyala on July 3.
Fighting left a war crimes suspect wounded and killed two Sudanese World Vision aid workers, among others.
Travelling into the city about six kilometres from the Nyala airport, the correspondent said he counted about 12 gun-mounted SUV vehicles belonging to the National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS) – the country’s most elite forces, which are separate from the army.
Up to 10 troops were stationed with each gun car.
“It is calm but we don’t trust this calm because everyone has weapons, and they are not under control. They can use them at any time,” one resident said, afraid to give his name.
Fighting in Nyala was sparked when security forces allegedly killed a notorious local bandit who was also an officer in the paramilitary Central Reserve Police.
Darfuri members of the Reserve formerly belonged to the Arab Janjaweed, a government-backed militia which shocked the world with atrocities against African civilians suspected of supporting rebels.
The rebels began their uprising against the Arab-dominated Khartoum regime in 2003.
Security problems have been compounded by inter-tribal fighting, kidnappings, carjackings and other crimes, many suspected to be the work of government-linked militia and paramilitary groups.
Hardship faces Nyala residents as they begin the Ramadaan month of dawn-to-dusk fasting.
They said the city has been without electricity for two days.
A taxi driver reported the price of petrol at 50 Sudanese pounds ($7) a gallon (4.5 litres), or about four times the price in the capital Khartoum.
Fuel reaching Nyala is subject to attack during its overland journey across Darfur.
Despite the tensions, people are trying to carry on with their lives.
Students were in the streets walking to and from school.
A main market in the town was operating.
But another commercial area remains shut after it was burned and looted on Sunday, as residents ran for their lives during fresh fighting.
That same day Ali Kushayb a known war criminal and former commander of the Arab Janjaweed, was left wounded during an attack which reportedly killed two of his men, local sources said.
Kushayb is wanted by The Hague-based International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity and war crimes allegedly committed earlier in the Darfur conflict.
Security has worsened in Darfur this year, the United Nations says.