60 people killed in recent Darfur clashes

A new surge of interethnic and militia violence has killed at least 60 people in separate attacks in Darfur over the past few days, the African Union and the United Nations said Sunday.

The killings came ahead of an expected visit by top U.N. envoy Lakhdar Brahimi on Tuesday. A former envoy to Afghanistan and Iraq,Brahimi is due in Khartoum to push for the government to accept a U.N. resolution voted last week that plans for U.N. peacekeepers to take over operations in this vast region of western Sudan, the U.N. said.

Most of the recent attacks were launched by the so-called Janjaweed, a disparate group of Arab militiamen who are blamed for much of the atrocities in a conflict that has killed more than 180,000 people and displaced 2.5 million since 2003.

The Janjaweed are allegedly backed by the Sudanese government, which pledged to disarm them in the May 5 peace agreement signed in Abuja, Nigeria.

The U.N. said in a statement Sunday it received unconfirmed reports that the Sudanese army had fought a Janjaweed group in southern Darfur on May 18, killing six and arresting two. Sudanese authorities were not available to comment on the incident.

The U.N. said the Sudanese army and police had stated they would disarm armed bandits in the zone. Nazir Tigani, a local militia leader, warned he would resist such a move, the U.N. said.

Anticipating a possible increase in violence, the U.N.'s security assessment office in Sudan advised U.N. workers and international non-governmental organizations to limit their movement in the area and to update possible evacuation plans, reports the AP.