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Darfur rebel alliance attack town, declare truce over

Written by: Staff
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KHARTOUM, July 3 (Reuters) A new alliance of Darfur rebel commanders and political parties have attacked a town on the road to the capital Khartoum, declaring a 27-month-old truce dead, rebels and officials said today.

One of three rebel factions signed an African Union-mediated peace deal in May but since then new alliances have been formed among those who reject the deal.

''The forces of the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) attacked a town in North Kordofan called Hamrat al-Sheikh,'' said a spokesman for the Sudan armed forces. ''Sudanese planes have been deployed and the aggression is continuing,'' he added.

Hamrat al-Sheikh is on the road between Khartoum and North Kordofan's main town el-Obeid. It is around 200 kilometres from Sudan's capital.

JEM has little military power on the ground in Darfur, where the other main rebel group, the fractious Sudan Liberation Army (SLA), controls most of the rebel territories.

JEM formed a new alliance last week called the National Redemption Front (NRF) with a few breakaway SLA commanders and a small political party, the Sudan Federal Democratic Alliance.

Adam Ali Shogar, one of the SLA commanders in the NRF, told Reuters his forces were still in control of Hamrat al-Sheikh.

''God willing, we will be on our way to Khartoum,'' he said.

''The government has shown it is not committed to the 2004 humanitarian ceasefire so this deal now has no meaning.'' It was the first time a rebel group in Darfur openly stated it was disregarding the April 2004 truce, which had in any case been widely ignored by all sides to the conflict.

During the more than three years of revolt in Darfur, rebels often attacked in Kordofan, which neighbours Darfur, saying they were close to the capital. They never reached Khartoum.

Today's attack will be a heavy blow to the May 5 peace deal, already facing criticism from think tanks, Darfuri citizens and even the top UN envoy in Sudan, Jan Pronk.

Since the deal, the rebels have split many times and formed many alliances. Commanders have changed sides on numerous occasions.

Many Darfuris reject the deal saying they want more compensation for war victims, more political posts and more transparency in disarming government proxy militias, blamed for much of the rape, pillage and murder that has driven 2.5 million into wretched camps and killed tens of thousands.

REUTERS SHR RAI2212

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