The African Union has confirmed reports by rebels in Sudan's Darfur region, that the Sudanese army bombed areas of northern Darfur last week in violation of a recent ceasefire. Noel King has more in this VOA report from Khartoum.

The aerial bombardment violates a 60-day ceasefire agreed upon by the Sudanese government and Darfur's two largest rebel groups, the Sudan Liberation Army and the Justice and Equality Movement.

The governor of the U.S. state of New Mexico, Bill Richardson, negotiated the ceasefire between the Sudanese government and rebels during a diplomatic visit to Sudan on January 10.

African Union spokesman Noureddine Mezni told VOA that Darfur rebels reported that Anka village and Wadi Korma in north Darfur had been bombed on the 16th and 19th of January.

"Preliminary investigations have confirmed that the aerial bombings indeed took place as reported," he said. "It is unfortunate this incident took place at all, but particularly when efforts are being made to re-energize the peace process."

Pockets of northern Darfur are known strongholds of the National Redemption Front, a coalition of rebel groups that have refused to sign on to the Darfur Peace Agreement.

Only one faction of the Sudan Liberation Army signed on to the May 5 deal, which was negotiated by the African Union.

Since the signing of the agreement, Darfur's already factionalized rebels have splintered even further.

Rebels in the region have said they are planning a conference aimed at uniting the divided movements, but have had to postpone the conference due to repeated bombings by Sudan's army.

The Darfur conflict is soon to enter its fourth year.

Khartoum is charged with arming Arab militias known as Janjaweed to crush a 2003 rebellion sparked by complaints that remote Darfur remained undeveloped due to neglect by the powerful central government.

At least 200,000 people are believed to have died in the conflict, and more than two million others have been displaced in Darfur and eastern Chad.