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Truce Deadline Missed in Sudan

Darfur remains under attack despite a pledge by government forces to halt military operations.

December 20, 2004|From Times Wire Services

KHARTOUM, Sudan — The government has pledged to halt military operations in the western region of Darfur, a U.N. spokeswoman said Sunday, but African Union officials said pro-government forces had kept up attacks on rebels in the area.

AU officials, in charge of monitoring a truce, said Khartoum had not met a deadline set by AU mediators to halt fighting by Saturday. The AU had threatened to refer Sudan and the rebels to the U.N. Security Council if the two sides failed to meet the deadline.

Unknown fighters shot at an AU helicopter in Darfur on Sunday, but the aircraft landed safely, spokesman Assane Ba said in Abuja, Nigeria. He gave no further details about the helicopter or its occupants.

Two Darfur rebel groups also accused the Sudanese military and pro-government militiamen of continued attacks on villages Sunday.

Tens of thousands of people have been killed and about 2 million displaced since the fighting in Darfur began in February 2003.

Rebels took up arms after years of tribal skirmishes over scarce resources in Darfur, accusing the Arab-dominated Khartoum government of marginalizing the region.

The government and Arab militiamen have tried to suppress the rebellion but are accused of targeting civilians in a campaign of murder, rape and arson. The United States accuses the militiamen of genocide.

Disease and hunger have killed 70,000 in Darfur since March, the World Health Organization says.

After a meeting Sunday of Sudanese government representatives, the United Nations and Western diplomats, U.N. spokeswoman Radhia Achouri said, "The government has pledged to halt all [current] military hostilities in Darfur and asked that the rebels do the same."

Achouri said the Sudanese government had also agreed to withdraw its troops from some areas in Darfur after it consulted with the AU on exact locations.

A spokesman for the rebel groups said the government and militiamen were trying to scuttle the peace talks by launching attacks around the villages of Mala and Arla as late as Sunday.

"We're asking the AU and the international community to put more pressure on the [Sudanese] government to stop these barbaric attacks on civilians," said Ahmed Tugod Lissan, a spokesman for two rebel groups.

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