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Rebels in Eastern Sudan Fight Government Troops

For the second day in a row, rebels in eastern Sudan have carried out attacks against government forces there to protest what they say is long-running neglect by Khartoum. Rebel troops include a group who is also involved in the Darfur conflict raging in western Sudan.

The military spokesman for the Darfur rebel group Justice and Equality Movement, Abdallah Abdel-Kerim, tells VOA his group had joined forces with rebels in eastern Sudan, because they are tired of the Sudanese government neglecting remote populations.

Mr. Abdel-Kerim says they have formed the Eastern Front movement, whose members hail from the eastern Sudan rebel groups called Beja Congress and Free Lions. Their aim is to force the government to sit at the table and negotiate a general, all-inclusive accord for the whole of Sudan.

The movement accuses the Sudanese government of unequally distributing oil revenues and other resources, and says certain groups of people living in the eastern states of Red Sea and Kassala are economically and politically marginalized.

Over the past two days, the rebel movement has attacked government garrisons near Port Sudan on the Red Sea, capturing at least 10 Sudanese soldiers and seizing government equipment.

Mr. Abdel-Kerim says the rebels are in control of the situation. This is in contrast to government reports claiming victory.

The Sudanese government could not be reached for comment. In recent days, government officials have accused the rebels of preparing, in its words, "a subversive plot targeting the country's eastern front."

Sudan has long accused Eritrea of supporting rebels in the east in a bid to topple the Sudanese government.

Khartoum 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.

The government is currently in negotiations with JEM and others involved in the Darfur war. That two-year-old conflict was sparked by similar complaints about economic and political marginalization by the government.