Three Darfur ex-rebels seized by own armed wing

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KHARTOUM, Nov 22 (Reuters) Three senior members of a former Darfur rebel faction were seized by armed members of their own group, a spokesman from the deeply fractured organisation said today.

The three high-ranking officials in the Sudan Liberation Movement (SLM) were taken late yesterday close to the central Khartoum house of their faction's leader Minni Arcua Minnawi -- the only rebel to sign a peace deal with Khartoum in 2006.

The armed group handed the men over to Sudanese security services who released them without charge today morning, said al-Tayyib Khamis, spokesman for the SLM Minnawi.

The incident underlined the deeply ingrained divisions in Khartoum's only official partner among the splintering insurgent groups in Darfur.

''We deeply regret this incident,'' faction spokesman al-Tayyib Khamis told Reuters. ''This is as a result of differences and disputes within SLM's ranks.'' He said a group of men from SLM Minnawi's armed wing seized the group's security director Abass Ibrahim, its deputy director of security and intelligence al-Faddil Altijani and its head of operations Al-Sadig Yousif. The men were arrested as they walked to a meeting with their leader, he added.

Khamis said the armed group believed the three had been getting too close to both Sudan's government, and to rival rebel factions in war-torn Darfur. ''They were accused of following a doctrine of double standards.'' Minnawi himself was unavailable for comment.

His faction was the only one of three negotiating rebel groups to sign the 2006 Darfur Peace Agreement with Khartoum. The movement then became part of the government and Minnawi became a senior assistant to the Sudanese president.

SLM members unhappy with Minnawi's decision splintered into a string of breakaway rebel groups. Minnawi's faction has also suffered a number of defections in the months since the signing of the 2006 deal.

Minnawi's followers have clashed with police in Khartoum on a number of occasions.

A fresh attempt to bring Khartoum together with Darfur rebels fell into disarray in late October when most insurgent groups decided to boycott the proceedings in the Libyan city of Sirte.

More than 200,000 people have died in more than four years of conflict in Sudan's remote western Darfur region, say international experts.

REUTERS PD ND1645

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