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Monday, January 26, 2009

Sudan bombs Darfour villages as rebels, sure of western support, renew offensive

CAIRO — The Sudanese regime of President Omar Bashir has resumed the war with rebels in the western province of Darfour.   

Officials said the war was sparked by an offensive by the Justice and Equality Movement, the largest rebel group in Darfour. They said JEM and its allies, after weeks of threats, captured several towns and villages in southern Darfour.

"The rebels, encouraged by the Western condemnation of Sudan, has been emboldened to renew the war," an official said.

Officials said JEM captured Muhajiriya, a base of the joint African Union-United Nations, Middle East Newsline reported. On Jan. 15-16, they said, JEM attacked and seized Muhajiriya from forces led by Minni Arcua Minnawi, who signed a peace agreement accord with Khartoum in 2006 and has since become an adviser to Bashir.

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In response, the Sudanese Air Force sent bombers to attack Muhajiriya on Jan. 23. Air force An-27 air transports dropped bombs that landed near the AU-UN force.

In 2006, the Khartoum regime pledged to cease all air strikes in Darfour. On Jan. 22, AU-UN said Sudan's military had violated international law by firing on civilians in August 2008 in a camp 80 kilometers west of Muhajiriya.

The International Criminal Court has been deliberating whether to order the arrest of Bashir on charges of war crimes. Bashir has warned that Khartoum would retaliate.

The Sudanese military has acknowledged the air strikes on Muhajiriya as well as the surrounding region. Officials said the military was helping the besieged troops of Minnawi.

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