The incident is the latest in a resurgence of violence in the Darfur region since the signing of a peace agreement late last year and the withdrawal of U.N. peacekeepers.
In January, at least 129 people were killed and 108,000 people remain displaced after similar clashes in El Geneina between members of the Masalit tribe and Arab tribes. Military reinforcements that had been brought into the city have since largely withdrawn, residents told Reuters.
In a statement on Monday, Sudan’s security and defence committee said it had authorised forces to gain control of the situation and continue a forcible disarmament campaign in the area.
Residents of the city and an internal U.N. security bulletin seen by Reuters reported the use of heavy weaponry and rocket-propelled grenades, with pictures and videos from residents showing plumes of smoke rising from the city’s neighbourhoods.
“The city is full of armed outlaws and we don’t see a real military presence that can protect civilians,” said one resident.
In October, the transitional Sudanese government signed a peace agreement with some of the Darfur rebel groups that had fought ousted President Omar al-Bashir.
However, attacks by members of Arab tribes Bashir had armed to fight the rebels have been escalating, and tribal clashes have increased in the heavily armed region.
A U.N. report found that the groups that signed up to the agreement had also begun recruiting fighters across the region.
International peacekeepers began withdrawing at the start of the year, and the Sudanese government said a new joint peacekeeping force mandated under the agreement would be able to protect civilians. But many in Darfur say they feel less safe. (Reporting by Nafisa Eltahir in Cairo and Khalid Abdelaziz in Khartoum; Editing by Mark Potter and Kirsten Donovan)