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ICRC staff member killed as fighting surges in Sudan's Darfur

Source: Thomson Reuters Foundation - Fri, 21 Mar 2014 13:06 GMT
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Women and children run away from a fire in a village in North Darfur which took hold when peacekeepers tried to secure a remote area, May 19, 2011. REUTERS/Albert Gonzalez Farran/UNAMID
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LONDON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - A Sudanese man working for the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) was killed by a stray bullet in Sudan's western Darfur region where escalating violence has forced tens of thousands of people to flee.

ICRC said Najmaddin Salih Musa Bishara was working as a warehouse storekeeper in El Fasher, north Darfur, when he was killed on March 20.

"The exact circumstances remain unclear and we are in touch with the police investigating the case." said Jean-Christophe Sandoz, head of the ICRC in Sudan, in a statement.

Fighting between rebels and security forces has killed dozens of people in Darfur in recent weeks. The United States has condemned the surge in violence, saying civilians were being "terrorised, displaced and killed" despite the presence of UNAMID, one of the world's biggest peacekeeping missions.

On Friday, Human Rights Watch (HRW) accused the Sudanese government of renewing ground and air attacks in villages in Darfur. Fighting has destroyed homes, triggered waves of cattle rustling and driven 200,000 people from their homes this year alone.

In late February and early March, a mixed government force of Sudanese military and militia known as the Rapid Support Forces attacked dozens of ethnic Fur and Zaghawa villages in South Darfur, HRW said.

Witnesses told HRW that government aircraft bombed the area, before a ground assault by government forces travelling in Landcruisers and on horses and camels.

Many of the Darfuris who have fled have no access to humanitarian assistance and are unable to reach safety, according to aid agency Oxfam.

Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir has remained in power despite rebellions, U.S. trade sanctions, an economic crisis, an attempted coup and an indictment from the International Criminal Court (ICC) on charges of masterminding genocide and other war crimes in Darfur.

"Attacks on civilians in Darfur are surging while Khartoum has persisted in blocking the ICC's cases on Darfur crimes," said Daniel Bekele, Africa director at Human Rights Watch, in a statement.

Law and order have collapsed in much of Darfur, where mainly African tribes took up arms in 2003 against the Arab-led government in Khartoum, which they accused of discriminating against them.

UNAMID, the joint U.N.-African Union peacekeeping force in Darfur, has been deployed in the region since 2007.

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