ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia, Mar 17, 2005 (AP) — Sudanese troops are fighting a rebel group in the country’s troubled Darfur region, breaking a cease-fire agreement they signed mid-December, an African Union official said Thursday.
A Sudan Liberation Army rebel stands guard at Gellab, a village in the desert east of El Fasher, the capital of North Darfur state November 8, 2004. (Reuters).
Fighting in the rebel stronghold of Jebel Moun, a town in the West Darfur area, highlights the deteriorating security in the region, said Assane Ba, spokesman for the African Union.
The United Nations said Wednesday it has pulled staff from four areas of West Darfur because of threats against foreigners and other staff. The 29 Sudanese and three foreign workers were withdrawn from four areas surrounding the regional capital of Geneina into the town itself after officials got credible reports that militia had planned to attack foreigners.
Ba could not say whether the fighting between Sudanese troops and rebels of the National Movement for Reform and Development was related to the threat to U.N. workers.
Conflict has spread through Darfur since February 2003, when two non-Arab rebel groups took up arms against the Arab-dominated government to win more political and economic rights for the region’s African tribes.
Sudan ‘s Arab government is accused of responding by backing Janjaweed militiamen who have carried out rapes and killings against Sudanese of African origin. The government denies backing the Janjaweed.
The U.N. now estimates that about 180,000 people have died in Sudan ‘s western Darfur region as a result of disease and hunger since October 2003. There are no accurate figures on those killed in the violence.
The African Union has deployed peacekeepers in Darfur and is trying to mediate a political settlement to the conflict.