Nyala / Bielel — More than 35 villages burned to ashes, and dozens of civilians were killed in attacks by troops of the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) in the area of Hijer Tunjo, southeast of Nyala, South Darfur, on Thursday and Friday.
Thousands of villagers found refuge in camps near Nyala, thousands of others are still trapped in the desert.
A sheikh who fled Hijer Tunjo told Radio Dabanga, that he, together with about 5,000 "extremely exhausted" villagers, had arrived in Kalma camp for the displaced in Nyala locality on Friday.
"At least 4,000 "Hemeti militiamen" (RSF) in Land Cruisers approached the area of Hijer at about 1.30pm on Thursday. They started to shoot, killing about 31 villagers instantly, and wounding 23 others, as far as I could count them. The real death toll is unknown, because all the people fled, leaving Hijer Tunjo village completely deserted. So far 53 names are known of the people killed in Hijer on Thursday."
"Those militiamen looted the houses and set fire to them. They seized more than 20 women and girls, and raped them. The women and girls are still missing. Also there are thousands of villagers still trapped and hunted down in the desert, after they had been robbed of all their belongings, and fled. Large numbers of people sought refuge in El Salam camp in Beilel locality. Others fled to Kalma camp in Nyala locality."
"After those Rapid Support Janjaweed burned down 35 villages in the area of Hijer Tunjo on Thursday, they continued on Friday, and set fire to the villages of Um Gounja, Tani Deleiba, Tukumari, Himeida, Barka Tuli, Afouna, and other villages."
As for the reasons for the attacks, the burning of the villages, and the raping of women, the sheikh pointed to what the militiamen shouted at them when they arrived at Hijer Tunjo. "They called us Tora Bora, which means that we are supporting and sheltering the rebels." He stressed that the people of Hijer, and the villages in the neighbourhood have nothing to do with the armed movements. "There are no rebels stationed in our area."
The village sheikh urged the international community to "immediately intervene and save civilians from genocide, theft of their property, the burning of villages, and forcible displacement from their villages".
The Secretary-General of Kalma camp, Dr Saleh Eisa Mohamed, told Radio Dabanga that about 5,000 people from the area of Hijer had arrived on Friday, including women and children "who are in a state of shock and in very bad health conditions". The newly displaced reported to him that about 11,000 people who fled from the burned villages were trapped by the RSF in the desert, and denied access to Nyala locality.
Dr Mohamed appealed to the UN and the UN Security Council to "act as soon as possible, and start an urgent investigation into the attacks on civilians, and bring the perpetrators who committed these heinous crimes to trial". He also urged humanitarian organisations to "help out and provide emergency relief for the newly displaced who arrived at Kalma camp after losing everything they had".
In South Darfur's capital of Nyala, multiple sources related to the opposition as well as to the government said that the attacked area is located "southeast of Nyala, starting from Hijer Tunjo in the east to Tani Deleiba in the west. It concerns a wide area belonging to Beilel locality and El Salam locality."
The attacks were carried out by the RSF militias evicted from North Kordofan lately, according to the sources. "They were supported by Sudan Air Force's fighter jets, and on the ground by government-backed militiamen on camels and horses recruited from the areas of Bulbul, Abu Ajoura, Tullus, Ed El Fursan, and Um Dawanban, as well as from places in North Darfur. Those government forces and militias already destroyed agricultural areas with vegetables and fruit at Wadi Beilel. Almost every donkey or horse cart, on its way with vegetables to Nyala, or returning from Nyala to the villages, was assaulted."
The sources described the situation as "a real chaos". "There is no protection at all. Anyone with a rifle has the power to rule over the place he is in."
They confirmed that a large-scale wave of newly displaced from the villages southeast of Nyala moved towards South Darfur's capital on Thursday and Friday.