In the latest bout of deadly violence in Sudan s Darfur, clashes between rival groups killed at least 168 people, an aid group said on Sunday.
Since October last year, Darfur has seen a spike in deadly conflict triggered by disputes over land, livestock and access to water and grazing, which was ravaged by the civil war that erupted in 2003.
Adam Regal, a spokesman for the General Coordination for Refugees and Displaced in Darfur, said the latest fighting began on Friday in the Krink region of West Darfur. At least 168 people were killed on Sunday and 98 wounded, according to Regal, who expressed fears that the death toll could rise.
The violence broke out when armed tribesmen attacked villages of the non-Arab Massalit minority in retaliation for the killing of two tribesmen, the aid group said.
It said that at least eight people were killed on Friday.
On Sunday a tribal leader from the Massalit minority described seeing multiple bodies in villages of the Krink region, which is 80 km 50 miles from West Darfur's provincial capital, Geneina.
Medics from the Central Committee of Sudan Doctors warned of the catastrophic health conditions in West Darfur and said several hospitals were attacked in the violence.
The International Committee of the Red Cross called for authorities to ensure the safe arrival of wounded people to hospitals.
Volker Perthes, a UN special representative, condemned the killings and called for an investigation.
Images posted online on Sunday showed burning houses sending plumes of black smoke to the sky, while others showed patches of scorched earth where huts had stood before they were set alight.
Agence France-Presse was not able to verify the authenticity of the images.
The aid group accused the Arab Janjaweed militiamen of orchestrating the latest attacks.
The mainly Arab militia gained notoriety in the early 2000s for its role in the repression of an ethnic minority rebellion in Darfur.
According to rights groups, many of its members have been incorporated into the feared Military Rapid Support Forces, led by General Mohamed Hamdan Daglo, the de facto deputy leader of Sudan.
Regal said that the militiamen had committed killings, burning, lootings and torture without mercy in recent weeks. The conflict that erupted in 2003 pitted ethnic minority rebels who complained of discrimination against the Arab-dominated government of then-president Omar al-Bashir.
Bashir s government unleashed Janjaweed, mainly recruited from Arab pastoralist tribes, who were blamed for atrocities including murder, rape, looting and burning villages.
The fighting killed 300,000 people and displaced 2.5 million, according to UN figures.
The main conflict has subsided over much of Darfur but the region is awash with weapons and deadly clashes often erupt over access to pasture or water.
After months of mass protests against his rule, Bashir was ousted in April 2019. He is wanted by the international criminal court over his role in the Darfur conflict.
In the past few months, scores of people have been killed and hundreds of houses have been destroyed in several bouts of violence in Darfur, according to the UN and medics.
The military coup led by army chief Abdel Fattah al-Burhan last year sparked a transition to full civilian rule after Bashir's ouster, which has resulted in a broader security breakdown in Darfur.