FIGHTING

The region of Jebel Marra, a vast terrain of rocky mountains, has witnessed fresh fighting in recent months between the SLA-AW and government forces, although overall levels of violence remain low across Darfur.

Khartoum restricts international media access to Darfur, an area about the size of France, so it is not possible to independently verify details of fighting or disasters there.

An insurgency began in Darfur in 2003, as ethnic rebels rose up against Sudan's government, accusing it of marginalisation.

Khartoum responded by using militias to crack down on rebels and since then, insurgent groups have fragmented, with fighting punctuated by periods of relative calm.

The United Nations says that over the years the conflict has killed about 300,000 people and displaced more than 2.5 million, with many having set up home over the last decade and a half in sprawling semi-permanent camps.

With the overall fall in violence in Darfur, a joint peacekeeping mission between the UN and the African Union, known as UNAMID, has been reducing its troops, which currently stand at about 8,700.

Plans are to cut them to 4,050 by June 2019, with mission itself terminated by the end of 2020.

Deployed in 2007, UNAMID once had 16,000 blue helmets on the ground tasked with protecting civilians in Darfurbut the UN Security Council last year agreed to a major drawdown.

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