Khartoum - Almost 40 000 people may have been displaced by militia arson and looting in Sudan's Darfur region, according to new data obtained by AFP on Tuesday.

More than 19 000 arrivals have been recorded at two camps for displaced people near the South Darfur state capital, Nyala, the International Organisation for Migration said.

That is in addition to an estimated 20 000 whom the UN's World Food Programme on Monday said fled to safety at Saniya Deleiba, a village about 35 kilometres from Nyala.

A WFP team was to travel to the village on Tuesday to determine exactly how many are in need.

Mario Lito Malanca, IOM's chief of mission in Sudan, told AFP that his agency registered 5 473 displaced in Kalma camp and another 14 015 in Al-Salam camp.

The African Union-United Nations peacekeeping mission in Darfur (UNAMID) said on Monday that it had reports of villages burned, looting, and civilian casualties.

However, UNAMID said Sudanese authorities had not allowed peacekeepers into the conflict zone, despite an agreement with the government which says the blue helmets should have freedom of movement.

There are reports of people still fleeing the conflict area, with the security situation unpredictable and gunmen stationed on the main roads to Kalma and Al-Salam, a humanitarian source told AFP.

The new surge of displaced adds to the strain on agencies that were already struggling to assist almost two million people uprooted by 11 years of rebel-government war in Darfur, and a surge of inter-Arab militia fighting last year.

Non-Arab rebels rose up in Darfur in 2003, seeking an end to what they viewed as Arab elites' domination of Sudan's power and wealth.

In response, government-backed Janjaweed militiamen, recruited among the region's Arab tribes, shocked the world with atrocities against civilians.

Analysts say Sudan's cash-starved government can no longer control its former Arab tribal allies, whom it armed against the rebellion.

As a result, the militia have turned on each other in a struggle for resources. They have also been blamed for kidnapping, carjacking and other crimes.

Sources in the area told AFP that “all indications” are that so-called Rapid Support Forces, a Darfur militia, appear to be behind the latest violence.

The Rapid Support Forces had been assisting government operations against rebels in South Kordofan state before they moved on to North Kordofan, the official SUNA news agency reported.

The militia returned to Darfur after North Kordofan governor Ahmed Haroun ordered them out of his territory last month, saying they had “instigated panic and anarchy”, SUNA said.

Arriving in Nyala on Monday, the Rapid Support Forces “put on a show of military might that reassured the citizens of the security situation,” SUNA said.

It quoted the unit's commander, Major General Abbas Abdel Aziz, as saying the troops “work to protect the citizens and their properties from the rebel forces”. - AFP