Darfur rebel leader vows more attacks on Khartoum

Darfur rebel leader Khalil Ibrahim said on Monday he would launch more attacks on Sudan’s capital Khartoum until the government fell.

“This is just the start of a process and the end is the termination of this regime,” Ibrahim, whose Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) attacked Khartoum at the weekend, told Reuters. “Don’t expect just one more attack. This is just the beginning.”

The weekend attack was the first time fighting had reached the capital in decades of conflict between the traditionally Arab-dominated central government and rebels from far-flung regions in the oil-producing nation—Africa’s biggest country.

President Omar Hassan al-Bashir’s government arrested Islamist opposition leader Hassan al-Turabi and four top members of his party on Monday, aides said.
JEM leaders were supporters of Turabi in the past but he denies backing the rebels.

Turabi’s son said security forces arrested his father at his home about an hour after returning from a conference of his Popular Congress Party in nearby Sennar state.

“They want to blame the party for what has happened,” said Siddig al-Turabi. About 65 people were believed to have been killed in the attack.

Turabi was Bashir’s ideologue until they split in a bitter power struggle in 1999 and 2000. Since then he has been in and out of jail but was released along with all other political prisoners after a 2005 north-south peace deal.

No immediate comment was available from the government on Ibrahim’s vow of more attacks and Turabi’s arrest.

Chad accused

On Sunday, Sudan cut diplomatic relations with neighbouring Chad, saying the attack by the rebels from the western Darfur region had been supported by Chadian President Idriss Déby Itno.

The rebels made a lightning advance across 600km of desert and scrub to attack Khartoum’s western Omdurman suburb on Saturday in what one of their leaders called a bid for power. Officials said the last rebels fled on Sunday evening.

In a television broadcast, Bashir accused Ibrahim, who is from the same tribe as Déby Itno, of being behind the attack.

Chad has denied involvement, but analysts say it may have backed the JEM rebels to retaliate for an attack on the Chadian capital three months ago.

Rebels in Sudan have for decades complained of neglect by the central government.

A peace deal between north and south ended one civil war in 2005 and boosted Sudan’s economy by increasing oil production in the south, but that agreement did not cover the conflict that erupted in Darfur five years ago.

International experts estimate about 200 000 people have been killed and that 2,5-million have been made homeless in Darfur since mostly non-Arab rebels took up arms.

Government officials said the attack on Khartoum ruled JEM out of any peace process.

A curfew remained in force on the outskirts of Omdurman, as troops hunted down rebels. Military checkpoints were at every major junction.

Heavy tanks lined Omdurman’s streets and dozens of vehicles carrying armed men raced along. Security forces were arresting mostly young men who looked to be from Darfur.

But the streets were again full of people.

Chad said it was surprised at Sudan’s “hasty decision” to cut off ties and that it hoped they would be re-established.

Déby Itno and Bashir signed a non-aggression pact in March. Each has accused the other of breaking the deal. - Reuters

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