Home | News    Friday 28 December 2007

Rebel JEM says down govt plane in West Darfur

December 27, 2007 (KHARTOUM) — The Darfur rebel Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) said on Thursday it had shot down a Sudanese military plane and warned aid workers, the African Union and others to get permission before flying over the vast region.

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A member of the rebel Justice and Equality Movement (JEM).

JEM leader Khalil Ibrahim said his group had hit a government Antonov plane flying over West Darfur just once before it began smoking and eventually crash landed some 5 km (3 miles) south-east of South Darfur capital, Nyala.

"We shot it (this morning) in West Darfur and now it has fallen in the forest 5 kilometres south-east of Nyala airport," he said.

The Sudanese army was not immediately available to comment on the unconfirmed report.

Ibrahim said all flights in Darfur, whether commercial, humanitarian or from AU peacekeepers should get JEM’s permission at least 24 hours in advance before flying to guarantee their safety.

"JEM is declaring Darfur a no-fly zone," he said. "We don’t want to victimise anyone but we are targeting the government who are using civilian aircraft for their operations."

In a statement issued today related to this issue, The rebel group said today’s plane is the sixth that GoS has lost to JEM. The others are:
2 Mig 29, shot down in Wad Ginja, North Darfur, July 8th, 2007,
2 Helicopter fighters, Haskanita, September 1, 2007, and 1 Antanov, Haskanita, September 1st, 2007.

Ibrahim, whose fighters have attacked two oil installations in areas neighboring Darfur in recent weeks, said that JEM rebels "have surrounded Geneina for several days and the government is trying to send reinforcements to break the siege."

The JEM has refused to take part in U.N.-A.U. sponsored peace talks aimed at ending the violence in Darfur where 200,000 people have died and more than 2 million have been displaced, according to international organizations.

Asked whether the threat to shoot own aircraft over Darfur would hinder humanitarian aid efforts, Ibrahim said: "They must tell us in advance of their air movements."

A Khartoum spokesman played down the suggestion that Geneina was under siege, saying that the JEM was simply "parading a few soldiers" outside the town.

(Some information for this report was provided by AFP and Reuters.)