Saturday, February 25, 2012

Darfur Rebels Claim 12 Troops Killed in Clash With Sudan Army

Darfur rebels claim 12 troops killed in clash with army

KHARTOUM: Rebels in Sudan’s Darfur region have clashed with government forces, both sides said, with the rebels claiming to kill a dozen government soldiers and Khartoum accusing its opponents of targeting civilians.

Mostly African insurgents in Darfur took up arms against the Arab-dominated government in 2003, accusing authorities of neglecting the remote territory.

Khartoum mobilized troops and allied Arab tribes to quell the rebellion, unleashing a wave of violence that the United Nations and other observers estimate may have killed hundreds of thousands of people.

International efforts to broker an end to the conflict have failed to produce lasting peace, hampered by rebel divisions, continuing military operations and other difficulties.

One of the region’s main rebel groups, a faction of the Sudan Liberation Army led by Minni Minnawi, attacked Alawna, an area south of the North Darfur state capital Al-Fasher, Wednesday evening, SLA spokesman Adam Salih said.

The insurgents killed 12 government soldiers including a regional commander and captured weapons such as mortars, rocket-propelled grenades and Kalashnikov rifles, he said.

“The [government] force was completely defeated, and its remnants were scattered toward Al-Fasher,” Salih said.

Sudan’s state media reported that fighting had broken out in Alawna Wednesday, but said the rebels had killed six civilians and wounded four.

State news agency SUNA quoted a military official from the region as accusing the rebels of burning homes and “terrorizing innocent, unarmed civilians.” The report did not mention any government casualties.

The rebels denied targeting civilians in the attack.

Violence in Darfur, where the United Nations and the African Union maintain a huge joint peacekeeping operation, has subsided since its peak in 2003 and 2004, but rebel and tribal fighting and banditry has continued to plague the territory.

Some 300,000 people may have died in the conflict, the United Nations has estimated.

The International Criminal Court has indicted Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir and for war crimes in the region.

Khartoum has put the death toll at 10,000 and dismissed the court’s charges as politically motivated and baseless.

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