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UN Chief Says Peacekeepers To Stay in Key Darfur Town

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon says peacekeepers will stay in a rebel-controlled Darfur town, despite a request from Sudanese officials for the troops to withdraw.

Speaking to reporters Monday at the African Union summit in Ethiopia, Mr. Ban said the peacekeepers will continue to do their duty in the town of Muhajiriya.

His comments came as officials from the UN-African Union mission in Darfur reported air raids near the town today. They said thousands of civilians took shelter around a peacekeeping base.

On Sunday, Sudan's government asked the estimated 190 U.N. and AU peacekeepers in Muhajiriya to leave. Both the U.N. and Darfur rebels said they expected government attacks in the area.

The rebel Justice and Equality Movement seized control of the town in south Darfur three weeks ago.

The rebels took the town from the only Darfur rebel group that has signed a peace deal with the government. Sudanese warplanes have since bombed the town, causing an undetermined number of casualties.

Sudan's government has been battling rebels in Darfur since 2003. U.N. experts put the death toll from the conflict and related violence at more than 200-thousand. Sudan's government says those figures are exaggerated.

The fighting has continued despite the presence of the U.N.-AU force, which now numbers more than 15,000 troops and personnel.

Some information for this report was provided by Reuters