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Eastern Rebel Group Says Sudanese Government Poised to Attack


A senior official with a rebel movement in eastern Sudan claims the Sudanese government is gearing up for an attack on his group.

The secretary of legal affairs for the Eastern Front, Salah Barqueen, tells VOA his rebel movement is ready to face Sudanese government troops that might come its way.

"They are gathering now," he said. "They gathered their weapons and soldiers and they gathered their heavy equipment and missiles and a lot of preparation is taking place there. This means that they are preparing for attack. We are ready to defend our bases and our territory in the liberated area."

According to rebel intelligence reports, explains Mr. Barqueen, government troops are heading to an area called Hamish Koreb in the east.

The alleged troop advance follows fighting at the beginning of this week in which the Eastern Front attacked government garrisons near Port Sudan on the Red Sea.

Mr. Barqueen says the Eastern Front captured at least 17 government troops in that battle, including an officer, and is still holding them.

He explains that the Eastern Front is waging war to draw attention to what it believes is Khartoum's long-standing policy of denying the people in the area a fair share of the country's wealth, resources, and political power.

"We want to compel this regime to sit down for peace talks," he said. "We want to attract also the attention of the international community that this regime is not serious, and not genuine about peace. We want to let them [government] know that they have to sit down for talks and this is the only way. Otherwise, the war will continue."

The Eastern Front is made up of several rebel groups - including one that is also fighting in the Darfur region of western Sudan - that have long-pressed for the rights of people living in the eastern states of Red Sea and Kassala.

VOA could not reach the Sudanese government for direct comment. An official with the Sudanese embassy in Nairobi said the government had not put out a statement addressing the Eastern Front's allegations, but said that, regarding the battle at the beginning of the week, the situation is under control.

Khartoum has accused the Eastern Front of preparing, "a subversive plot targeting the country's eastern front."

The Sudanese government has promised to inject $88 million into the area over three years and rebuild infrastructure in the region that contains Port Sudan, an important transportation point for the country's growing oil industry.

At the beginning of this year, the Sudanese government signed a peace deal with southern rebels. Khartoum and rebels from the Darfur region of western Sudan have been negotiating in Abuja, Nigeria.

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