Sudan Confirms Capture of Senior Air Force Officer by Rebels, 04/29/03

Sudan confirms capture of senior air force officer by rebels

KHARTOUM, April 29 (AFP) -- Sudan's army spokesman said Tuesday that rebels in the west of the country had captured a senior military officer after killing his bodyguards in the recent attack on the North Darfur state capital of Al-Fasher.

"Major General Ibrahim Bushra Ismail was abducted by the outlaws while he was leaving his residence and after his four bodyguards were shot dead," the spokesman, General Mohamed Beshir Suleiman, told AFP Tuesday.

The spokesman said he could not know where the rebels from the Sudan Liberation Army (SLA) were holding Ismail, whom he identified as the commander of an air force unit in Al-Fasher.

"The (army) troops are still pursuing the outlaws and have so far killed about 50 and captured nine of them," he added.

The rebels, who raided Al-Fashir on Friday, killed 32 servicemen, including two officers, and seven civilians and destroyed four parked military planes, North Darfur governor Ibrahim Suleiman told a press conference in the city on Monday.

The governor said they were dug in on Sin mountain, west of Al-Fasher and "they are besieged by the army troops (who) are determined to annihilate them."

He accused the southern-based rebel Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA) of supplying the SLA with arms.

Khartoum has refused to acknowledge any political motivation for unrest in the Darfur states, blaming it instead on "armed criminal gangs and outlaws," who it says are aided by tribes from neighboring Chad.

The SLA is not included in the framework of peace talks aimed at ending Khartoum's 20-year-old civil war with the SPLA. It has never acknowledged any link with the SPLA, but called in mid-March for an "understanding" with other opposition forces in Sudan.

For its part, the human rights group Amnesty International expressed serious concern Monday about the deteriorating situation in the Darfur region.

"Thousands of villagers have reportedly fled their villages since April 11 after attacks by government forces and government-organized Arab militias fighting against the SLA in the area of Kutum, Northern Darfur."

The London-based group called for "Darfur to be included in the human rights monitoring mechanism set up under the Sudan peace process", and for an independent commission of inquiry to be sent to Darfur.

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