January 27, 2008 (EL-FASHER) — Sudanese warplanes this morning continued air strikes on rebel troops near the capital of North Darfur state, clearing the ground against a rebel attack on the town, the hybrid peacekeeping mission said today.
Yesterday the rebels spoke about fighting with the Sudanese army’s troops near El-Fasher and the UNAMID peacekeepers confirmed the fighting while the governor toured the city denying the rebels’ incursion.
The fighting of El-Fasher had occurred simultaneously with another battle near Muhageriya in southern Darfur where the rebels said they had defeated a government force of 120 vehicles. The hybrid peacekeeping force denounced the presence of rebels in the vicinity of the UNAMID position in the southern Darfur location, where civilians were gathering for protection.
The UNAMID confirmed today that the Sudanese army blocked an attempt by the rebel Justice and Equality Movement to take control of El-Fasher, the capital of North Darfur, where the joint peacekeeping mission is headquartered.
“Ground and aerial bombings by the Government continued this morning approximately 9 kms from El Fasher in an attempt to clear the area of armed movements who had advanced towards the outskirts of the city yesterday,” the UNAMID said on Tuesday.
Earlier this month the rebels confirmed their intention to attack big cities in Darfur and elsewhere. The statement prompted former rebel leader turned Senior Presidential Assistant Minni Minnawi to accuse JEM leader Khalil Ibrahim of attempting to become the “John Garang of Darfur” in Doha negotiations through use of military force.
However, JEM official El-Taher El-Faki insisted that the rebel force was an administrative convoy and had no intention to attack El-Fasher.
The Sudanese army kept silent for the second day without any reaction or statement on the military operations in North or South Darfur. But Ali Sadiq the spokesperson of the foreign ministry reiterated the Sudanese commitment to protect the peacekeeping mission and to maintain peace in Darfur.
JEM attacks on Muhergeriya and El-Fasher raised the concern of the peacekeeping mission over the deterioration of the fragile humanitarian situation on the ground. The UNAMID spoke about 3,000 newly displaced people following the fighting in southern Darfur on January 15.