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Sudan Allegedly Recruited Rebels in Darfur

April 24, 2006|From Reuters

N'DJAMENA, Chad -- Sudan's security forces helped recruit rebels, including child soldiers, from refugee camps in the country's western Darfur region for a revolt in neighboring Chad, rebel prisoners told African Union investigators.

Some of the fighters being trained in conflict-torn Darfur were as young as 12, one rebel commander captured in N'Djamena, the capital of Chad, told an AU team this weekend.

A delegation from the 53- nation group is visiting Chad to investigate President Idriss Deby's accusations that Sudan organized, financed and armed an April 13 assault on N'Djamena by rebels seeking to end his 16-year rule.

Sudan has denied helping the insurgents' bid to seize power in the landlocked oil producing-nation before a May 3 election in which Deby is seeking a third term.

Deby has cut diplomatic ties with Sudanese President Omar Hassan Ahmed Bashir's government, closed the border and called for an international force to occupy Darfur to prevent regional chaos.

Chad's political opposition, which is boycotting next month's election, says Deby is using Sudan's alleged involvement with the rebels to distract attention from the growing discontent at home.

"It is obvious Sudan helps the rebels. But you must remember ... [the Chad government] supports rebels in Sudan," said Ibni Oumar Mahamat Saleh, spokesman for a 20-party opposition coalition.

Human rights groups and the Chadian opposition say Deby -- pressured by his Zaghawa ethnic clan, which straddles the Sudanese border -- has helped Darfur rebel groups opposed to the government in Sudan, including the Justice and Equality Movement, which keeps representatives in N'Djamena.

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