Monday, November 29, 1999

Sudan army says killed 108 Darfur rebels

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Sudan's army said on Saturday it had seized a key rebel stronghold in Darfur and killed 108 insurgents on Friday, dealing a heavy blow to already floundering peace talks in the remote western region.The rebel Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) dismissed the report, saying it had withdrawn from the remote Jabel Moun area voluntarily days earlier to spare the population government bombing raids and shelling.But it said other recent clashes showed Sudan's government had chosen to go back to war and the chances of finding a negotiated solution were now "very remote".JEM said two weeks ago it was suspending peace talks with the government, accusing it of breaking a ceasefire and failing to honour an initial peace deal signed in Qatar in February."There was a battle between Sudan's Armed Forces and JEM yesterday," army spokesman Al-Sawarmi Khaled told Reuters. "There were about 108 killed from JEM and we took about 61 prisoners alive."He said government soldiers had also died in the attack but did not have numbers.JEM said its troops had already moved out to different areas in North and South Darfur states, as well as neighbouring South Kordofan.Senior JEM official al-Tahir al-Feki said JEM was still prepared to return to talks if Khartoum and international mediators agreed to comply with a list of issues, including the honouring of a previous ceasefire and the recognition of JEM as the sole rebel negotiator."But I don't see any real prospect of negotiations or a peaceful settlement. Because the other side does not want it," he said."Sudan has chosen war against peace and we are up for it ... This is a reality. It is a state of war."(Reporting by Andrew Heavens; Editing by Charles Dick)

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