Sudan Admits Government Troops Killed in Darfur
KHARTOUM, May 12 (AFP) - The Sudanese army admitted
on Monday that a number of its troops were killed or wounded during
fighting in northwestern Sudan, but insisted the government retained
control of the area.
An army spokesman, General Mohamed Beshir Suleiman, said in
a statement that a group of "armed outlaws" on Sunday attacked
the police and security headquarters and army garrison in Mallit town,
before looting a bank and the market.
Mallit lies just north of Al-Fashir, capital of the state of
North Darfur, where a group calling itself the Sudan Liberation Army/Movement
surfaced for the first time in February. Suleiman's statement,
which was released by his office, said joint government forces
resisted the attackers.
"A group of an alliance of bandits and outlaws assaulted the
quiet town of Mallit, starting with the police and security offices
and the town's garrison, to paralyze security," it said.
The group "went on looting the Bank of Khartoum (branch) and the
market as their main goal," said the statement. "Our
army, police, security and popular defence forces confronted the
attackers and forced them to flee," the statement said.
The town was now under control by government troops, "a number
of whom fell as martyrs", it said. Some other troops were wounded, it
First Vice President Ali Osman Taha said that, in launching
their attacks, the "group of outlaws are planning to create a political
row to make the government respond to their demands".
Although those demands were not specified by the rebels themselves
or the government, Taha implied that they included power-sharing on
a regional-ethnic basis.
"We do not have institutions built on an ethnic basis and power
devolution is conducted in a peaceful manner through polling boxes,"
Taha was Monday quoted by the official Al-Anbaa daily as saying.
"What is happening in Darfur will not overthrow the regime but
will affect the security of the community and will exhaust the country's
resources," Taha said. He said the armed gangs could
only score hit-and-run attacks, without actually occupying land
or being able to press political demands.
The government has refused to acknowledge any political
motivation for unrest in the states of North, South and West Darfur,
blaming it instead on "armed criminal gangs and outlaws," who it says
are aided by tribes from neighboring Chad. The Sudanese
authorities have also accused the s outhern
separatist Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA) of helping the "outlaws"
in the Darfur region, a charge denied by the SPLA.
The SLA, which first emerged in late February under the label of
the Front for the Liberation of Darfur, is not included in the framework
of peace talks aimed at ending Khartoum's 20-year-old civil war with
It has never acknowledged any link with the SPLA, but called
in mid-March for an "understanding" with other opposition forces
fighting the Khartoum government.