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24 June - The joint African Union-United Nations peacekeeping mission in Darfur said today it has received reports of tribal clashes in the west of the region that led to a number of deaths and injuries, and called on the parties involved to cease hostilities.

The number of casualties from Tuesday's clashes between the Rizeigat and Misseriya tribes has not yet been confirmed, according to the mission, known as UNAMID.

However, 20 people are reportedly killed and more than 25 injured in the violence, which occurred in the villages of Bugulay and Tereij, 28 kilometres southeast of Zalingei, West Darfur state.

Sporadic fighting continues to persist in Darfur, where nearly seven years of fighting has killed at least 300,000 people and driven 2.7 million others from their homes.

UNAMID, which was set up to protect civilians and quell the violence in Darfur, said it is closely monitoring the situation.

Meanwhile, the UN Humanitarian Coordinator in Sudan, Georg Charpentier, said the world body and its partners are very concerned at the increasingly insecure environment in Darfur.

“The steady deterioration of security conditions, particularly in the past two months, is not only affecting the population but directly targets the humanitarian community,” he said in a statement.

“Repeated kidnappings of humanitarian staff and the killing of peacekeepers, as well as vehicle hijackings and banditry, seriously impede the overall humanitarian access.”

Earlier this week unknown assailants in Darfur ambushed UNAMID peacekeepers, resulting in the death of three blue helmets and the wounding of another. It was the latest attack against the force, which has lost 27 soldiers or police officers since the start of 2008, when the mission took over duties from a previous AU operation.

Mr. Charpentier noted that the reduction of access due to insecurity has already resulted in some cases of either a complete suspension or a serious reduction of activities and delivery of assistance by humanitarian agencies.

“We strongly urge the Government of Sudan and other stakeholders to engage with the humanitarian community at the local and federal levels to rapidly improve the overall security situation throughout Darfur,” he stated.