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Sudan arrests Chadian mutineers in Darfur

Nov 2, 2005 (KHARTOUM) — Sudan has arrested and disarmed more than 20 Chadian army defectors near the common border after a September mutiny in the east of the country, said an official on Wednesday.

Head of the central and western Africa office for the ruling National Congress, Hassan Bergu, said the soldiers were detained in the West Darfur state capital of Geneina earlier this week and would be handed over to the International Committee of the Red Cross within the next few days.

The official said "The authorities in Geneina on Monday arrested two officers and about 20 troops of the Chadian army who infiltrated into West Darfur."

He said the vehicles used by the soldiers to cross the border had "already been sent back to the Chadian army command in the border town of Adre".

He added that the arrests were line in with a security agreement between Khartoum and Ndjamena under which the two governments undertook not to provide refuge for each other’s armed opponents.

Foreign minister Lam Akol had said last month that the Sudanese authorities would disarm any fugitive mutineers who crossed the border.

The defectors were the remnants of an army mutiny that broke out in eastern Chad in September, prompting a loyalist counter-offensive that saw the rebels driven towards the Sudanese border.

Mutineers put their strength at some 800 soldiers, but the Chadian government insisted they numbered only 40 or so.

Western diplomats in the Chadian capital said the mutiny was the result of a split within the Zaghawa ethnic group of President Idriss Deby.

It prompted Chad to close down the Sudanese consulate in the border town of Abeche and its own consulate in Geneina, and send a high-level delegation to Khartoum last week to head off mounting tensions after the mutiny.

The Zaghawa straddled the Chad-Sudan border and were also heavily represented among ethnic minority rebels that had been fighting the Sudanese army and allied Arab militias in the Darfur region for more than two and a half years.

More than two million people had been displaced by that conflict, of which tens of thousands had sought refuge in Chad.

(AFP/ST)