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AU Accuses Darfur Rebels of Destabilizing Region

The African Union blasted the Darfur's largest rebel group for a series of recent attacks and other violations of a cease-fire with Sudan's government. The AU's condemnation comes a week before the Sudanese government and the two Darfur rebel groups are to resume peace talks.

AU officials say fighters from the Sudanese Liberation Army, or SLA, are responsible for the killing of an unknown number of Arab nomads, abducting seven of them, and stealing about 3,100 camels in an attack last week.

The violence, AU says, has a negative impact on the peace talks set to resume September 15 in Abuja, Nigeria.

Ambassador Ki Doulaye, who is with the African Union's task force for ending Sudan's Darfur conflict, told VOA rebel soldiers, especially from SLA, have been blocking the movements of some AU peacekeepers in Darfur in clear violation of the cease-fire. "Of course, there is a lot of banditry in the region, but this has been normal activity in Darfur. Since we are enhancing our deployment, of course we are making more and more patrols and we are noticing more and more of these activities. This last week we have noted also that the rebel movement, and particularly the SLA, is impeding some of our team to go freely throughout Darfur. This is also a violation of the cease-fire agreement," he said.

Rebels from Darfur's black-African tribes, claiming discrimination and oppression by the Khartoum government, took arms against the government in February 2003. Government troops, backed by Arab militias, retaliated with a scorched-earth campaign, bombing and burning down hundreds of villages.

The UN estimates 300,000 people have died in the conflict and more than two million have been forced out of their homes.