Khartoum - Gunmen killed seven people in Sudan's Darfur region during an attack on a government official's motorcade, prompting the authorities to impose a curfew and close schools, state media said on Thursday.
Darfur has been plagued by violence since rebels took up arms in 2003, complaining the central government had neglected the remote western territory.
While violence is down from its peak in 2003 and 2004, law and order have collapsed in parts of the vast territory and banditry, tribal fighting and clashes between rebels and government forces have continued.
On Tuesday afternoon, unknown gunmen opened fire on a motorcade carrying the commissioner of North Darfur state's Kutum area, state news agency SUNA said. The attack in Kutum town killed a guard and two police, the agency added, quoting North Darfur state governor Osman Mohamed Youssef Kibir.
Two police were also killed by “sniper fire” in the town market, the report said, adding two civilians had also been killed. The report said 21 people were wounded.
Gunmen also attacked local police buildings, stole two cars, and burned two others, it said.
The state government took emergency measures including withdrawing regular police forces from Kutum town, relocating the leadership, and reinforcing an army unit in the area, said SUNA.
All schools in Kutum would be closed “until further notice,” it said. Carrying guns in all the state's cities “except in necessary cases” would be banned and a curfew in Kutum would be imposed from 6pm to 7am, it added.
Senior army officer Mohamed Kamel Mohamed Nour was appointed to “oversee the administrative and operational management” of the Waha and Kutum regions temporarily, it said.
Violence spiked in the region on August 01, when gunmen killed the local leader of the Al-Waha region, the report said.
Gunmen later surrounded a camp for displaced people in Kassab, burnt down a police station and looted the main market, a peacekeeping mission there said at the time.
The International Criminal Court has indicted Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir and issued an arrest warrant for Defence Minister Abdel Raheem Muhammad Hussein to face charges of war crimes in Darfur, charges they deny.
The government signed a Qatar-brokered peace deal with small Darfur rebel groups a year ago but the main rebel groups have refused to join. - Reuters