Sudan Accuses Southern Separatists of Supplying Arms to Darfur Rebels, 04/29/03

Sudan accuses southern separatists of supplying arms to Darfur rebels

KHARTOUM, April 28 (AFP) -- The governor of Sudan's Northern Darfur state accused the Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA) of supplying rebels in his region with arms.

General Ibrahim Suleiman told reporters there was a "direct relationship" between the SPLA and the "outlaws", referring to the Sudan Liberation Army (SLA) that operates in the Darfur region, the official SUNA news agency said.

Suleiman was speaking in al-Fasher, the capital of Northern Darfur State, which the SLA on Friday said it had taken, but Khartoum rejected the claim, saying its troops had beaten back the rebels.

"The rebel movement (SPLA) has chosen the al-Fasher rebel group to carry out this mission of engaging the government army," Suleiman said.

"There are, moreover, big and small planes that ferry arms to the outlaws in Darfur," he added, saying that members of the SPLA had taken part in the offensive on al-Fasher.

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

In line with this, Suleiman identified the head of the "outlaw" group as Abdullah al-Baker, who he said was a Chadian opposition member.

In comments published in the Akhbar al-Yom newspaper Monday Suleiman made similar charges about the SPLA and its leader John Garang.

"We firmly believe John Garang's movement coordinates and communicates with this (Darfur) group, particularly since the (SPLA) has been blocked from doing anything in the south by concluding a ceasefire with the government."

The SLA is not included in the framework of peace talks aimed at ending Khartoum's 20-year-old civil war with the SPLA.

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 am independent commission of inquiry to be sent to Darfur.

The SLA has never acknowledged any link with the SPLA, but called in mid-March for an "understanding" with other opposition forces in Sudan.

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