U.N: 50 people killed in recent Darfur clashes

More than 50 people have died in fighting in Darfur during the past few days, the African Union and United Nations reported, as various armed groups in the west Sudanese region try to gain territory ahead of an expected cease-fire.

Militia hailing from nomadic Arab tribes launched two separate attacks in South Darfur on Friday that killed 29 and six ethnic African villagers, Moussa Hamani, the chief information officer for the AU peacekeeping mission to Darfur, said in Khartoum on Sunday.

The UN mission to Sudan said in an email press release Sunday that villagers in another South Darfur village had attacked a local Arab militia, known as Janjaweed, on Friday. Eleven farmers and eight Janjaweed were killed, the United Nations said.

There were also unconfirmed reports that the Sudanese army had killed six militiamen and arrested two others on Thursday, the United Nations said.

Hamani said the fighting in Darfur had increased since the peace agreement signed on May 5 to end a conflict that has left over 180,000 dead and 2,5 million displaced in the vast arid region since 2003.

"The problem seems to be that everyone wants to maximize their territory before the truce and disarmament actually come into effect," he told The Associated Press in a phone interview.

The May 5 agreement states that the government has 37 days to submit a plan to disarm the Janjaweed, and that rebel movements will give up their weapons once they have seen the militia doing so.

The United Nations said the Sudanese army and police have stated they would disarm armed bandits in southern Darfur. 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.

The latest killings came ahead of an expected visit to Khartoum by top U.N. envoy Lakhdar Brahimi on Tuesday, the United Nations said. A former U.N. envoy to Afghanistan and Iraq, Brahimi is expected to push the government to accept last week's U.N. Security Council resolution that plans for the world body to take over peacekeeping in Darfur from the African Union, reports the AP.

I.L.