Rebels in Darfur say Sudan's government launched attacks in the troubled region along the border with Chad the same day that it announced a cease-fire at peace talks in Libya. As Nick Wadhams reports from Nairobi, the rebels say the fighting casts doubt on the government's commitment to the peace negotiations.
The rebels claim militia and government troops fought with rebels in the Jebel Moun area. The claim was made by two groups that are not attending the peace talks, the Justice and Equality Movement and a faction of the Sudan Liberation Army.
It is unclear how many people died in the attacks, but the rebels say that the government forces later withdrew and that both rebels and civilians were killed.
Al-Tayeb Bashar, a spokesman for an SLA faction led by Abdel Wahid al Nur, spoke to VOA from a rebel stronghold in Darfur near where the alleged fighting occurred.
"They came with their vehicles and horses and camels. Some of our people have been killed, some of them are civilians. The government as you know is making propaganda in front of international community and it says yes we declare ceasefire, they are saying this but really on the ground there are a lot of things going on here because they want to make more pressure for SLA-Wahid to go to Libya to negotiate and we are not going there at all," he said.
Bashar also said the government forces bombed rebel positions from the air, which would be another violation of a U.N. Security Council ban on Sudanese military flights in Darfur.
Government officials could not immediately be reached for comment about the latest attacks, but an army spokesman told Reuters that the armed forces have no troops in the area and that it is not in their interest to bomb anyone.
The attacks could also lead to new sanctions against the Khartoum government. During the weekend, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown said there is the possibility of sanctions if the ceasefire is broken.
The conflict in Darfur has killed at least 200,000 people and displaced more than two million since 2003. There had initially been hope that the peace talks in Libya would lead to improvements. Those hopes were shattered when some of the most powerful rebel groups refused to participate.
On Monday, the United Nations and the African Union essentially acknowledged that the talks in Libya, which they had been meeting, were not getting anywhere. They announced that it is now time for consultation, and that what they called "substantial negotiations" would take place later.