Darfur rebels say govt bombs area despite truce

By Opheera McDoom
Tuesday, January 16, 2007; 12:57 PM

KHARTOUM (Reuters) - Sudanese government planes bombed Darfur rebel areas on Tuesday despite a declared truce, rebels said.

"The Antonovs bombed our areas of Amrai and Anka," Darfur rebel commander Jar el-Neby told Reuters from North Darfur, near the affected areas.

He said it was not immediately clear whether any civilians were killed but said dozens of cattle died in the bombardment.

An army spokesman denied the bombing. "No Sudanese planes have moved in Darfur or in Chad in the past two days," he said.

Chadian officials on Monday said Sudanese military aircraft had violated Chad's airspace.

Experts estimate 200,000 people have been killed and 2.5 million driven from their homes in four years of rape, pillage and murder in Darfur, which Washington calls genocide. Khartoum disputes the high death toll and denies any genocide in its vast western region.

Neby and other rebel Sudan Liberation Movement (SLM) commanders are preparing a conference to form a united position ahead of a new African Union and U.N. mediated push for peace talks. One of the main obstacles to talks has been rebel divisions. There are more than a dozen rebel factions.

In a joint statement with visiting New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson last week, Sudan agreed to allow the rebels to hold the conference and also to a 60-day cessation of hostilities. The truce aims to allow the insurgents to hold their talks without fear of attack.

Some rebel commanders meeting on Tuesday in the Chadian border town of Abeche have rejected the ceasefire. But Neby and other SLM commanders have agreed to honor the truce and are organizing their own conference to try to unite their ranks.

The African Union, monitoring the violence in Darfur, could not immediately confirm the bombing on Tuesday. But the AU has complained twice previously that the government had bombed rebel areas immediately following AU visits and meetings with commanders.

Any bombing is likely to further delay any rebel conference, and the push for new peace talks.

Only one of three rebel negotiating factions signed a May peace deal with the government. Many of those who rejected the deal formed a military alliance and renewed hostilities with the government.

Mostly non-Arab rebels took up arms in early 2003 in Sudan's remote west, accusing central government of neglect.

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