Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Sudan goes on the offensive in Darfur with help.

Africa: Of a former rebel leader who endorsed the peace treaty and switched sides. Just another rotten time in Africa.

Heavy fighting resumed yesterday in one of Africa's bloodiest wars as thousands of Sudanese troops backed by Russian-made bombers launched a major offensive against rebels in Darfur. A UN official in Sudan said fighting was taking place across a "swathe" of the region, concentrating on "areas that have traditionally been held" by rebels from the bitterly divided Sudan Liberation Army (SLA). An African Union soldier on patrol in Darfur After air-lifting reinforcements to Darfur, President Omar al-Bashir appeared to be attempting to settle the three-year-old conflict. The Sudanese leader has already rejected United Nations resolution 1706, passed last Thursday, calling for a fully-fledged peace-keeping mission in Darfur. The president has also ordered the African Union, an alliance of all 53 countries on the continent, to withdraw its 5,000 troops and 2,000 civilians from the area when its mandate expires at the end of this month. Official statements claim that about 10,000 troops will be deployed in Darfur to "restore security" and allow 1.8 million people living in squalid refugee camps to return home. But independent sources say that as many as 26,000 Sudanese troops may be involved in the operation and, far from protecting the civilian population, their key objective is an onslaught against the black African rebels. ....Mr Bashir is exploiting a split among the insurgents. The faction of the SLA that endorsed a peace agreement signed with Khartoum in May is now fighting alongside Sudan's regime, further strengthening Mr Bashir's hand. Minni Minawi, this group's leader, was incorporated into the regime last month and named as "special adviser" to the president. By turning the rebels against one another — and buying off a key opponent — Mr Bashir has seized the initiative in Darfur. The rebels who failed to sign the peace agreement are the offensive's key target. Their main stronghold is found in the Jebel Marra mountains, where thousands of SLA fighters have bases.

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