Sudan's military was said to have killed a leading rebel in
the Darfour province.
The commander of the Sudan Liberation Movement/Army, Abdullah Abkar,
could be a significant development in Sudan's military offensive to end the
rebellion in Darfour. Over the last month, Sudan's military has poured
troops and government militia forces in Darfour to roll back the gains of
the SLM/A over the past year.
Rebel sources said Abkar was killed on Wednesday in a Sudanese
helicopter attack in the Abu Qamra region. They said Sudanese Mi-24 attack
helicopters fired rockets toward rebel-held villages in Darfour.
The Sudanese military has reported the death of Abkar, who also directed
ceasefire negotiations with Khartoum during 2003, Middle East Newsline reported. The military said Abkar,
another senior commander and 130 rebels were killed in a two-day battle to
dislodge the SLM/A from Abu Qamra. Sudanese government forces were also said
to have captured six rebel vehicles loaded with weapons and explosives.
Khartoum has accused Chad and the southern-based Sudanese People's
Liberation Movement of supporting the Darfour rebels. SPLM chief John Garang
has offered to mediate an end to the Darfour conflict.
For its part, the SLM/A has dismissed the prospect that the death of
Abkar has jeopardized rebel gains. Abkar, who arrived in Darfour from Chad
in the early 1990s, led several military successes against Sudanese forces
over the last year, including an operation in Fasher in April 2003.
The rebel group said its leadership appointed Ahmed Adam Abu Shanab as
the successor to Abkar. The appointment came as the SLM/A launched an attack
on Umm Katkout near the city of Um Kadada, a base of government militia
forces. A government statement said the rebel drive failed.
Sudan's military has launched a widescale attack in several areas of
northern and southern Darfour and rebel sources said about 200 people were
killed in a military attack last week on the village of Sora in the Darfour
region. The military was said to have employed Soviet-origin helicopters and
fixed-wing Antonov air transports in attacks on rebel positions.