Home | News    Monday 25 July 2005

Sudanese Army confirms weekend clashes with Darfur rebels

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By MOHAMED OSMAN

KHARTOUM, Sudan, July 25, 2005 (AP) — Sudan’s army acknowledged weekend clashes with Darfur rebels, even as the government called for moving up the next round of peace talks.

A Sudan Liberation Army rebel patrolling the desert west of El Fasher, the capital of North Darfur. (Ruters).

In a statement Monday, the army said fighting Saturday and Sunday began with a rebel attack on a civilian convoy the army was escorting in the western region. But the Justice and Equality Movement, one of two main Darfur rebel groups, had said the army attacked its positions first.

The army, in the statement carried by the official news agency, said a captain and two privates were killed by rebels, but that its troops forced the rebels to retreat.

The army statement accused the rebels of burning villages during the fighting, and said it called in the air force to strike rebel positions but did not bomb villages. The government has repeatedly been accused of deploying air power against Darfur villagers.

It was not clear whether civilians were killed or wounded in the weekend fighting.

Several rounds of peace talks and repeated declarations of cease-fires have done little to quell the violence in Darfur.

The next round of peace talks is schedule to open Aug. 24 in Nigeria under African Union auspices. During a visit to Khartoum and Darfur last week, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice called for the talks to start earlier, and the Sudanese government said it was willing.

Saturday, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said it had asked the African Union to approach the rebels about starting the round earlier than Aug. 24. The ministry added, "There is enough political momentum to make it a success."

Rebels from ethnic African tribes took up arms in Darfur in February 2003, complaining of discrimination and oppression by Sudan’s Arab-dominated government. The government is accused of unleashing Arab tribal militia known as the Janjaweed against civilians in a campaign of murder, rape and arson. At least 180,000 people have died — many from hunger and disease.

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The Sudan Tribune editorial team.

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