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Darfur Arab rebels say captured 12 Sudan soldiers

By Staff
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Google Oneindia News

KHARTOUM, Aug 13 (Reuters) An obscure mostly Arab Darfur rebel group said today it had kidnapped 12 Sudanese soldiers and challenged the government to stop mobilising militias to counter the four-year-old revolt in western Sudan.

The group, calling itself the Democratic Popular Front Army (DPFA), said in a statement sent to Reuters that among the captured was officer Ali Mohamed, whose military I D number was 44206.

''This is the first time we have captured government soldiers,'' the DPFA's secretary general, Osama Mohamed al-Hassan, told Reuters.

''We have been marginalised by the government. The government took advantage of our sons and paid them and gave them arms and used them to fight against others,'' he said.

He was referring to the Popular Defence Forces, mobilised by the government to quell revolts in Darfur and during decades of civil war in the south.

''We want them to stop the PDF, to leave people to live their lives and be able to farm and feed their cattle and eat and live in peace,'' he said.

The statement said the attack on Sudanese forces occurred in Soja in Wadi Saleh, in the southern area of West Darfur state, on Saturday.

''Our forces captured eight military vehicles as well as a large amount of weapons and ammunition and are controlling the area,'' said the statement, which included a British telephone number, an Egyptian number and a thuraya satellite phone number.

A Sudanese army spokesman said he had no immediate comment.

The group said its members came from mostly Arab tribes -- the Rizeigat, Habbaniya, Terjem, Beni Halba, Taasha -- and the non-Arab Fellata tribe. They are mostly based in West and South Darfur states but had some people in the north too.

Mostly non-Arab rebels took up arms in early 2003 accusing the central government of marginalising the remote, arid west.

Khartoum mobilised mostly Arab militias to stem the revolt.

A Sudanese analyst who declined to be named said Arab tribes felt they had been largely ignored in peace talks with the government.

''They have development needs too, and feel they are being labelled the bad guys,'' the analyst said.

''This group is vitally important because it represents a young generation of Darfurian Arabs who refuse to die for a government 1,000 miles away that has always neglected all Darfurians -- Arab and non-Arabs,'' said Julie Flint, co-author of a book on Darfur who has met the group's leader.

''The vast majority of Darfur's Arabs have refused to take sides so far. They may be beginning to come off the fence.'' The International Criminal Court has issued arrest warrants for one militia leader, from the Arab Taasha tribe, and for one junior cabinet minister, accused of conspiring to commit war crimes in Darfur.

REUTERS PD RN2152

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