UNAMID: 'Grave Concern' over Worsening Darfur Unrest

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International peacekeepers on Monday expressed grave concern about an upsurge of violence in Sudan's Darfur, after they airlifted people wounded in recent clashes.

The fighting on Friday between government forces and "an armed group" near Shangil Tobay "is part of a larger pattern of conflict in the area in recent months," said the African Union-United Nations Mission in Darfur (UNAMID).

"The escalating violence has become a matter of grave concern" to the mission, it said in a statement.

Rebels from the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) said earlier that on Friday they attacked a large government convoy traveling north from Shangil Tobay, which is about 50 kilometers (30 miles) south of El Fasher, the state capital of North Darfur.

They said they captured one armored vehicle and destroyed others, while seizing trucks and cars as well as equipment, weapons and ammunition.

JEM said its forces worked with the Sudan Liberation Army's Minni Minnawi faction in the attack which "captured a number of government troops" and inflicted heavy losses.

The rebels gave no specifics about casualties.

Sudan's army spokesman could not be reached for comment.

"Following the fighting, UNAMID airlifted, upon request, injured combatants... to El Fasher for further treatment," UNAMID said without specifying how many people were hurt or which side they were from.

The mission has previously provided similar assistance to wounded combatants from both sides, it said.

Since July, civilians have been increasingly at risk from inter-communal fighting, harassment by militia groups and sporadic clashes between rebel and government troops, particularly in North Darfur, U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon said in a quarterly report issued on October 16.

Ethnic rebels from JEM and the Sudan Liberation Army began their uprising against the Arab-dominated Khartoum government in 2003.

Though violence is down from its peak, various overlapping conflicts continue in the form of banditry, inter-Arab and tribal disputes as well as government-rebel clashes in the far-west region.

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