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Sudan Tribune

Plural news and views on Sudan

Darfur rebels claim downing Sudanese military aircraft

January 21, 2008 (KHARTOUM) — Darfur rebels said on Monday they had shot down a government plane bombing their areas in West Darfur, but Sudan’s army denied the claim, the first from the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) this year.

JEM has emerged as the most powerful threat to the government after almost five years of fighting which experts estimate has killed 200,000 people, but its latest claim could not be independently verified.

“It bombed our areas in Jabel Moun and our defence forces shot it down, it was a MiG-29,” JEM commander Abdel Aiz el-Nur Ashr told Reuters from the West Darfur region. He said the aircraft crashed in a mountainous area in North Darfur between the towns of el-Fasher and Kebkabiya.

An army spokesman said the news was “utterly untrue”.

“All our planes are in their hangars,” he said.

Ashr also named four people killed and one injured by bombing in Sureif Judad in West Darfur on Jan. 12 and said another four were injured and one killed in bombing on Jan. 13 near Zalengei town.

Mostly non-Arab rebels took up arms in Darfur in early 2003 accusing central government of neglect. Khartoum mobilised militias known as Janjaweed to quell the rebellion and who now stand accused of atrocities.

Divisions among rebel factions have stymied efforts to end the fighting. From two groups, the insurgents split into more than a dozen factions with individuals often changing loyalties.

On Monday, three members of Sudan Liberation Movement (SLM) founder and chairman Abdel Wahed Mohamed el-Nur’s movement said they were resigning. They accused Nur of dictatorial leadership and criticised the tribalism that has plagued the rebels.

“We joined the insurgents because we were marginalised but now Abdel Wahed has marginalised us within the movement,” SLM humanitarian coordinator Mohamed Abdel Karim told Reuters, adding that two SLM members from the Middle East office were with him.

Nur lives in Paris and has specified tough conditions to join any peace talks. He enjoys popular support among the 2 million people who fled their homes in Darfur and are now forced to live in miserable camps.