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Khartoum Seeks Terrorist Label for Darfur Rebels

Thousands of people demonstrated in Sudan's capital, Khartoum, against a rebel group that attacked the capital this weekend. As Derek Kilner reports from VOA's East Africa bureau in Nairobi, Sudan has appealed to the international community to label the Justice and Equality Movement as a terrorist organization.

Thousands of Khartoum residents joined the rally, organized by the government to celebrate victory over the assault by rebels from the Justice and Equality Movement. President Omar al-Bashir addressed the crowd, soliciting chants to denounce the rebel group.

Sudan has asked other countries to classify the Justice and Equality Movement as a terrorist organization and to prevent members of the group from traveling abroad.

The U.N. Security Council issued a statement Tuesday criticizing the rebel attack. U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told the Council that the attack, along with other violent clashes in recent weeks, poses a difficulty for the U.N.-African Union peacekeeping force that has begun deploying in region.

The head of the peacekeeping mission, Rodolphe Adada, echoed that sentiment.

"This is something that is going to complicate the solution because you know that the solution of the problem of Darfur cannot be a military one, the solution will only be through negotiations and a political solution," said Adada.

But the body also urged all parties to exercise restraint, and asked the government not crack down on civilians.

Human rights organizations, including Human Rights Watch, have raised concerns about mass arrests by the government following Saturday's attack, warning that some of those detained may have been tortured or executed. Residents say that people from Darfur living in the capital have been a particular target.

Sudanese security forces continue to make arrests in the capital. The government has also doubled its reward for the capture of rebel leader Khalil Ibrahim, who has vowed further attacks on the capital, to about $250,000.

Sudan has blamed the government of Chad for supporting the rebel attack and has cut off diplomatic relations. Chad has closed its border with Sudan, and announced a ban on Sudanese music on the radio.

Sudan and Chad have a long history of supporting rebel groups operating in each other's territory.

Sudan is widely thought to have backed an attack by Chadian rebels on the capital N'Djamena in February.

Sudan's President Bashir also accused the Justice and Equality Movement of receiving support from Israel.

The Sudan People's Liberation Movement, former rebels who now govern Sudan's semi-autonomous southern region have criticized the attack. Southern Sudan's undersecretary for regional cooperation, Cirino Hiteng,

"It has always been the SPLM policy for a peaceful settlement of the conflict in Darfur," said Hiteng. "The conflict in Darfur must be settled peacefully."

The Sudanese army says more than 200 people were killed in the attack. The number of rebels in the assault is not known, but the army says more than 300 vehicles were used.