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Sudan Government Resumes Bombing in Darfur


As Sudan awaits the International Criminal Court's decision on whether to issue an arrest warrant for President Omar al-Bashir, the government has resumed bombing attacks against rebel groups in the western region of Darfur.

Last November, President Bashir announced a unilateral ceasefire in the government's fight against rebel groups in Darfur. But a week ago, rebels said the government had resumed bombing raids in the region.

Sudan's military confirmed Wednesday it had conducted air raids on rebels from the Justice and Equality Movement around the town of Muhajiriya in South Darfur.

The rebel group's Ireland-based head of Training and Strategic Planning, Abdullahi El-Tom, said that the attacks are continuing

"Over the past weeks there have been sporadic attacks without following any clear pattern. Because they seem to cover the whole of Darfur, parts of north Darfur as well as south Darfur, and it is not confined to areas where JEM forces are available," he said. "Today there have been some sort of major engagements, they were attacked by forces from the government, aided also by members of Mini Minnawi's forces and JEM splinters."

No deaths have been reported from the bombings.

Tensions are high in Khartoum as an announcement is expected soon from the International Criminal Court in the Hague on whether it will agree to a request by the court's chief prosecutor for an arrest warrant for President Omar al-Bashir, on charges of war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide committed in the Darfur conflict. El-Tom says this may be a cause of the renewed bombing.

"It seems that the government wants to send a signal to the international community that they can destabilize the whole area if the indictment of Bashir is to go ahead, I cannot see an explanation other than that," said El-Tom.

Late Wednesday, prominent opposition leader Hassan al-Turabi was arrested in Khartoum. Turabi heads the opposition Popular Congress Party, and is a former ally of the ruling National Congress Party who helped bring President Bashir to power.

But Turabi has grown increasingly critical of the regime in recent years and earlier this week called for President Bashir to surrender to the ICC.

With the exception of Turabi, the leaders of Sudan's main political parties have, at least publicly, lined up in opposition to a warrant for President Bashir.

Turabi was briefly detained last year when he was accused of collaborating with an attack by the Justice and Equality Movement on Khartoum.

Also Wednesday, U.S. military aircraft began transporting equipment for the U.N. peacekeeping mission in Darfur from Rwanda to Sudan.

According to the United Nations up to 300,000 people have been killed in the Darfur conflict since 2003, and about 2.5 million displaced.

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