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Gunmen kill 20 farmers in Sudan's Darfur: Tribal chief

Attack took place after government set up meeting between dispossessed landowners and those who took their fields during Darfur war
A demonstrator with a sign reading in Arabic 'All of the country is Darfur, #PeaceFirst', during a protest in the Garden City district of Khartoum on 4 July 2020 (AFP)

Gunmen killed at least 20 people, including children, who were visiting their farms in Sudan's western region of Darfur for the first time in years, a tribal chief said Saturday.

The attack, in which 20 people were also wounded, took place in Aboudos, some 90km south of Nyala, the capital of South Darfur province, tribal chief Ibrahim Ahmad told AFP by telephone.

The victims were mostly displaced farmers who had returned to their fields under a government-sponsored deal struck two months between original landowners and those who took their fields during the long-running war in Darfur, Ahmad said. 

"But armed men came on Friday and opened fire, killing 20 people, including two women and children," he said, adding that the toll could rise because some of the wounded were in serious condition.

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The conflict in Darfur broke out in 2003 when mainly non-Arab African tribes, complaining of marginalisation, rose up against the government of Sudan's now deposed president Omar al-Bashir. 

Government forces and Arab militia, including the feared Janjaweed, a government-linked force, moved to repress the revolt and were later accused of widespread atrocities. 

The fighting killed 300,000 people and displaced 2.5 million others, according to the United Nations. 

There has been no serious fighting for years, but the conflict remains unresolved as Arab militias are still present and have control over land they seized.

Bashir, who was ousted by the army last April following months of mass protests, is wanted by the Hague-based International Criminal Court over charges of genocide and crimes against humanity in Darfur. 

The transition civilian Khartoum government has vowed to end the conflict and is holding talks with some of the rebel groups that had fought Bashir's government in Darfur and elsewhere in the country.

Peaceful sit-ins have sprung up in towns across Darfur and in other parts of Sudan to demand a stop to attacks by pro-government militia and their presence in the region.

Last week, Sudan declared a state of emergency in Darfur after incidents of violence and unrest took place in the towns of Kutum and Fatabarno.