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Sudan Tribune

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Khartoum police, Darfur former rebels clash, 10 dead

March 24, 2007 (KHARTOUM) — Eight members of a Darfur former rebel group and two Sudanese police officers were killed in a clash on Saturday which threatened a peace deal signed with the group last year.

Minni Minawi’s Sudan Liberation Movement (SLM) was the only one of three Darfur rebel negotiating factions to sign a May 2006 peace deal with the government which many Darfuris reject.

“We consider this a declaration of war,” said SLM spokesman al-Tayyib Khamis. “We are ready to reply with the same methods they have used.”

The fighting broke out when police surrounded the headquarters of the SLM in the city of Omdurman, on the west bank of the Nile opposite Sudan’s capital Khartoum, the state-run Sudanese Media Centre said.

It said the SLM had refused to hand over to authorities members involved in a traffic accident two days ago.

“After the talks failed, a police force moved to arrest the SLM Minawi soldiers involved, but during the operation shots were fired from within the house,” SMC quoted Khartoum deputy police chief Mohamed Naguib as saying.

Two policemen were killed and another nine wounded, he said.

Khamis said a large group of police attacked a house belonging to the SLM in Omdurman. “They demolished part of the house killing four members of the SLM and burned one of our vehicles with four soldiers inside,” he said.

Naguib said 41 SLM members had been arrested.

Experts estimate 200,000 have been killed and 2.5 million driven from their homes in Darfur to miserable camps in four years of rape, killing and pillage. Washington calls the violence genocide, a term Khartoum rejects.

After last year’s peace deal, SLM leader Minnawi became a senior assistant to the president with special responsibilities for Darfur. But he has complained the dominant National Congress Party (NCP) lacks political will to implement the peace accord.

SLM spokesman Khamis said police were still surrounding the group’s headquarters in Omdurman and all attempts at dialogue had failed. “I went to try to mediate the situation but the police forbade me from entering the area,” he said.

Omdurman residents said they saw tear gas being fired and could hear shooting. Trucks of heavily armed police tore through Khartoum’s streets warning drivers not to go to Omdurman.

Meanwhile in West Darfur, residents reported militia in cars and on horses attacked the town of Sirba on Saturday, killing four civilians and burning 10 houses.

“There are many people who fled the attack now arriving,” local resident Mubarak Abdallah told Reuters from the state capital. the report could not be immediately verified.

(Reuters)