Fighting between Sudanese government forces and rebels in parts of Darfur has displaced more than 41,000 people from their homes since late December, the UN said on Thursday.
“Aid organizations have assessed and verified the needs of 41,304 people displaced” by violence in North Darfur state and the Jebel Marra areas in the war-torn region, the UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said in its weekly bulletin.
The head of OCHA’s Sudan office said that the number of displaced people could be higher than the figures, which were collected between the last week of December and February 15.
“There are several localities, basically part of the Jebel Marra Massif, to which we don’t have access. We don’t know how many people have been affected” in those areas, Ivo Freijsen said.
Sudan’s military launched an offensive in Darfur in November in a bid to defeat insurgents who have been battling the government since 2003.
Jebel Marra is a hilly area in North Darfur where much of the fighting has taken place.
An army spokesman denied government troops carried out operations in the area in recent weeks.
“If there are any displacements, maybe it is as a result of previous fighting, more than one month ago. We ourselves never target civilians,” Colonel al-Sawarmy Khaled Saad said.
The Sudanese military launched its offensive — dubbed “Decisive Summer 2” — in November after the end of the rainy season that had rendered road in the region impassable.
Khartoum’s forces have also targeted insurgents in the Blue Nile and South Kordofan areas as part of the operation.
Insurgents in the western region of Darfur rebelled against the Khartoum government in 2003, complaining that they were being neglected and marginalized.
Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir is wanted by the International Criminal Court for alleged war crimes in the region.
Bashir seized power in a 1989 coup, but won a 2010 election that was criticized by observers for failing to meet international standards and was marred by opposition boycotts.
Some 300,000 people have been killed in the conflict in Darfur, and the region is home to more than two million internally displaced persons, according to the UN.
Fighting between government and rebels in Central Darfur during the same period last year displaced around 14,000 people, OCHA said.