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14 Jan 2009 18:00
Sudan’s army said on Wednesday it had bombed rebel positions in Darfur, a rare admission of air attacks in the western region.
Tension is growing in Darfur ahead of an expected ruling within weeks by the International Criminal Court on whether to issue an arrest warrant against Sudan’s President, Omar Hassan al-Bashir, on charges of war crimes in the region.
A statement said planes bombed near Muhajiriya in south Darfur, targeting rebels who had rejected a 2006 peace agreement and the unconditional ceasefire declared by al-Bashir last year.
“The Sudanese army has bombed this area to protect the Sudanese civilians living in this area,” a spokesperson said.
No one was immediately available from Sudan’s government to comment on whether the attacks broke the ceasefire or other agreements. Bombing is forbidden under terms of the 2006 deal and United Nations Security Council resolutions.
A commander of the rebel Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) said the bombing took place on Tuesday.
“They know our troops are moving in the area,” said Suleiman Sandal, adding that he had no reports of casualties.
Both the government and rebels are preparing for more fighting if the global court issues a warrant for al-Bashir at the request of the court’s prosecutor.
Officials from the joint UN-African Union peacekeeping force confirmed the bombing on Tuesday and said they also had evidence that two people were wounded in bombing elsewhere in south Sudan on Saturday.
The rebels also accuse the army of bombing in North Darfur.
JEM chief negotiator Ahmed Tugud told Reuters there was evidence government troops had been rearming militias and had succeeded in persuading some other rebel factions to join Khartoum in recent weeks.
Peace efforts in Darfur have faltered and rebel groups are increasingly fragmented. International experts say almost six years of fighting in Darfur have killed 200 000 and driven 2,5-million from their homes. Khartoum says 10,000 have died.—Reuters
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