Darfur rebels clash with Sudan army

2011-02-20 16:24

Khartoum - Heavy fighting between the Sudanese army and several Darfur rebel groups resumed this week, UN sources said on Saturday, after a main rebel group said peace talks in Doha were back on track.

Since Tuesday, there has been renewed fighting "between government troops and different rebel factions in the area between Tabit and Shangil Tobaya," around 70km southwest of the North Darfur capital El-Fasher, a UN-African Union peacekeeping mission (Unamid) source told AFP.

Low-flying Antonov aircraft and helicopters were seen in the area, with loud explosions heard throughout the day, and gun battles between government soldiers and different rebel groups, thought to include the Sudan Liberation Army factions of Abdelwahid Nur and Minni Minnawi, the source added.

"The heavy fights, which have continued intermittently in the region since mid-December and included attacks on civilians, have resulted in loss of life, injuries, destruction of property, the renewed displacement of thousands and the withdrawal of humanitarian workers," Unamid said in a statement.

At a meeting in the South Darfur capital Nyala on Friday, diplomats and special envoys from more than a dozen countries called for the "utmost urgency" in reaching a comprehensive Darfur peace deal.

On Saturday, the Justice and Equality Movement, the most heavily armed Darfur rebel group, said the Khartoum government had sent a delegation back to the Qatari capital this week after it was recalled in December, and talks had resumed.

But the absence of other key rebel factions from the Doha talks, Minnawi's branch of the SLA in particular, threatens to undermine any breakthrough in the negotiations.

At least 300 000 people have been killed in Darfur and 1.8 million people displaced since non-Arab rebels first rose up against the Arab-dominated Khartoum regime in 2003, the United Nations says.

The Sudan government puts the death toll at 10 000.