Sudan takes control of Darfur town from rebels

Staff Reporter

Sudanese troops took control of the Darfur town of Muhajaria on Wednesday, two weeks after it was seized by rebels.

Sudanese troops took control of the Darfur town of Muhajaria on Wednesday, two weeks after it was seized by rebels sparking some of the region’s worst fighting in years, an army spokesperson said.

The rebel Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) said its fighters had pulled out of the town after being pounded by government warplanes on Tuesday and again on Wednesday.

“We are inside the town and are following the JEM troops,” an army spokesperson said, requesting anonymity.

JEM spokesperson Suleiman Sandal said that rebels had withdrawn from the town in the western province of Sudan after renewed air strikes. “We are 30km from the city,” he said.

Peacekeepers with the United Nations-African Union Mission in Darfur (Unamid) reported ongoing shooting and an air strike about 1km from their base in Muhajaria.

The fighting, for which there was no immediate casualty toll, had led civilians to gather around the Unamid camp and Sudanese soldiers were carrying out patrols within 500m of the camp.

JEM chairperson Khalil Ibrahim vowed on Tuesday to pull his fighters out of Muhajaria on condition that rival militiamen loyal to former rebel chief Mini Minnawi did not return to the town they lost last month.

At least 30 civilians were killed and 30 000 displaced in the January clashes. “It was the most violent fighting since the signing of the Darfur peace deal” in mid-2006, a Unamid official said.

The peacekeeping force ignored a warning from the Sudanese government to pull out its 190 personnel from the town ahead of the army offensive.

The United States condemned the renewed fighting and the UN expressed its “alarm” at the deteriorating situation.

“The United States is gravely concerned by reports of intensive aerial bombardment,” its ambassador at the United Nations, Susan Rice, told reporters on Tuesday.

The UN says about 300 000 people have been killed in Darfur since ethnic rebels took up arms against the Arab-dominated Khartoum government in 2003, complaining of discrimination.

Sudan says 10 000 people have died and denies charges that its soldiers and allied militiamen committed war crimes and genocide in Darfur.—AFP

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