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KHARTOUM (Reuters) - Masked gunmen killed two Sudanese policemen guarding a guesthouse run by the United Nations World Food Program (WFP) in Sudan's strife-torn Darfur region, the aid group said Saturday.
The two officers died Thursday and a third was killed on Friday when security forces tracked down the raiders in south Darfur, shooting dead two of the attackers in an exchange of fire, police told Reuters.
The killings underlined the continuing insecurity in the remote western territory where law and order has collapsed after more than six years of fighting.
Up to four men raided the guesthouse in the south Darfur town of Kass in the early hours of Thursday morning, WFP security officer Elisca Lagerweij told Reuters. "The police found the body of one officer outside, shot in the back of the head. We think they caught him in his sleep," she said.
The second police officer was found four blocks away from the guesthouse, with a gunshot wound in his side, she added.
"The police told us there are criminals active in the area, targeting small groups of armed police, trying to get their guns," said Lagerweij. "We assume this was not an attack on the United Nations or its staff."
Two international staff and two WFP guards who were inside the compound were not injured. One guard, who took a brief look outside after hearing gunshots, saw the attackers wearing masks, said Lagerweij.
South Darfur's police chief Fatah Al-Rahman Osman said police pursued the attackers Friday. "One policeman and two gunmen from the other side were killed," he told Reuters.
Fighting in Darfur flared in 2003 when mostly non-Arab rebels took up arms against Sudan's government, accusing it of neglecting the region. Khartoum mobilised troops and mostly Arab militias to crush the uprising, unleashing a wave of violence that Washington and activists call genocide.
The conflict has since descended into a free-for-all involving bandits, rival tribes and rebel splinter factions.
Khartoum denies committing genocide and accuses the western media of exaggerating the conflict. Estimates of the death count range from up to 300,000, according to U.N. humanitarian chief John Holmes, to 10,000 according to Khartoum.
(Reporting by Andrew Heavens and Khaled Abdel Aziz; editing by David Stamp)