SAF, rebels lay mutual blames for violence in Darfur town takeover
Following the recapture of Labado in East Darfur, the Sudanese army (SAF) said rebels caused much chaos and looting in the city during their control. SLA-MM blamed the army and allied militias for killing 10 civilians during the town’s takeover.
UNAMID confirmed that SAF, supported by the Popular Defense Forces (PDF) and another armed group, had taken control of Labado on Tuesday which was under rebels’ command for two weeks “after fierce fighting”. The mission said four civilians were killed and six were wounded.
In a statement to state news agency SUNA, the spokesman of the Sudanese army asserted his forces recaptured both Labado and Muhajeriya “after fighting between both sides”.
Residents of both cities were cheering the army in support after the takeover saying they were happy they won the battle, SAF Colonel Al Sawarmi Khalid Saad declared.
Saad vowed to continue chasing the rebels until they are destroyed. He said SAF soldiers are still “combing the area” to ensure rebel forces are gone, disclosing that his troops are heading south following a railway.
SLA-MM seized on 6 April the towns of Labado and Muhajeriya, located in strategic positions along main routes used by traders and humanitarians to move supplies from Khartoum through East Darfur to South Darfur, as UN OCHA describes.
For its part, rebel spokesman Adam Saleh Abkar said government forces and allied militias “committed severe and grave abuses against citizens in Labado” on Tuesday and Wednesday after SLA-MM’s departure.
“They entered the town and killed 10 civilians, including two women and one child, and injured another five, including two women”, Abkar told Radio Dabanga. He added that a number of citizens were tortured; two of them were Sheikh Saleh Yaqoub and Ismail Abdullah Ali Adam.
He said militias burned the main market in Labado, looted houses and seized residents’ belongings and crops.
In addition, "thousands” of cattle were stolen in the neighborhood of Aradeba and the whole region is experiencing a severe water crisis because the only machine to dig wells was stolen, he outlined.
Abkar affirmed that “all violations by militias happened right in front of UNAMID troops stationed in the area”, noting that even civilians sheltered near the mission’s base were affected.
Muhajeriya was “invaded by government troops and militias” on Wednesday and citizens of this town were also attacked and looted by them, rebel’s spokesman claimed.
He blamed SAF and militia leaders for “what happened and for what is happening in the area”:
“SLA-MM withdrew from Muhajeriya for the sake of civilians’ lives, UNAMID saw us leaving in peace and without fighting. [Khartoum] recaptured the town without fighting. Why are armed forces then carrying out attacks? There is no justification for it”, Abkar said.
The spokesman disclosed that Abdel Hamid Musa Kasha, East Darfur’s newly appointed governor, was visiting Muhajeriya on Wednesday while assaults were taking place in the town.
A UN agency declared that about 36,000 civilians fled the clashes and gathered around UNAMID bases in Labado and in Muhajeriya, in line with estimates by the Humanitarian Aid Commission (HAC).