Deadly Darfur clash - farmers, nomads
Khartoum - A deadly gun battle in Darfur, which rebels had blamed on the Sudanese army, was between nomads and farmers trying to stop them crossing their land, the UN said Sunday, revising the toll down to five.
"When the farmers tried to stop the nomads, the nomads reacted and started firing on the farmers, killing three and injuring two. Then the farmers retaliated and killed two of the nomads," Susan Manuel, a spokesperson for the UN-African Union peacekeeping mission in Darfur (Unamid), told AFP.
The police took those injured in the clash, which broke out late on Thursday in the North Darfur village of Tamaru, to Seraf Umra hospital, she added.
Earlier, a branch of the Sudan Liberation Army, one of Darfur's main rebel factions, had said the Sudanese army attacked two villages in the Seraf Umra area on Thursday night, killing seven residents and forcing dozens to flee.
The army spokesperson subsequently dismissed the accusations.
Separately, the peacekeeping mission said it observed a helicopter gunship at low altitude over the Khor Abeche area of South Darfur on Wednesday firing rockets around the village of Um Gafala.
A Unamid patrol dispatched the following day confirmed the incident but reported no casualties.
300 000 killed
At least 300 000 people have been killed and 1.7 million remain displaced by the fighting in Darfur that first erupted in 2003, when non-Arab rebels took up arms against the Arab-dominated Khartoum regime, the United Nations says.
The government puts the death toll at 10 000.
Despite the rapid growth in the number of city dwellers since the start of the conflict, the majority of Darfur's population are farmers, and some of the fighting has become inextricably linked to disputes over natural resources.
In North Darfur, nomads number up to one million people, representing 60% of the state's population, according to nomad leader Hassan Abedlaziz, speaking at a workshop in El-Fasher on Sunday.
But with no water services available outside the urban areas, and due to the effects of desertification, the herders experience critical water shortages, he added, in comments published by Unamid.
The fighting in Darfur, involving Sudanese government forces, rebel groups and inter-tribal violence, has dropped sharply this year, according to Unamid.
The number of overall fatalities has fallen from 2 321 in 2010 to 724 so far in 2011, it said on Sunday.