Sunday, December 16, 2007

Darfur rebels say they repulsed attacks, sabotaged oil facility

Darfur rebels say they repulsed attacks, sabotaged oil facility

KHARTOUM (AFP) - Darfur rebels of the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) in west Sudan said on Sunday they had beaten back two attacks by government soldiers and sabotaged an oil facility. One of the main rebel movement's commanders, Abdel Aziz Nur al-Ashr, told AFP by telephone that in a clash with Khartoum's troops in the Sirba region JEM forces seized 32 vehicles and took "mumerous prisoners."

Ashr said that two JEM members were killed and six wounded in several hours of fighting northeast of the West Darfur capital of Geneina between Friday night and Saturday afternoon.

He said government forces had attacked civilians and burned their villages before clashing with the rebels.

Ashr said an army colonel was killed in the fighting, but there has been no confirmation of the incident from the Sudanese military.

The rebel movement also claimed in a statement posted on the Internet that it had repulsed a government attack in the Sarf Omra area of west Darfur and inflicted "heavy losses" on the Sudanese military.

JEM said it had attacked the Defra oil facility in south Kordofan, halting prodiction estimated at 50,000 barrels a day.

If confirmed, this would be the third assault by the rebel group against petroleum installations in Kordofan after the JEM said it would target Chinese oil firms until China ends its operations in Sudan.

China is Sudan's top oil buyer and weapons provider in a relationship that has drawn much criticism in the West.

Beijing is Khartoum's biggest foreign trade partner and has invested more than 400 million dollars in Sudan's western and largely impoverished Darfur region alone, according to Chinese figures.

But China has often been accused of failing to exert pressure on President Omar al-Beshir to stop the bloodshed in Darfur, where conflict has left at least 200,000 people dead and displaced more than two million, according to UN figures.

The conflict erupted in February 2003 when ethnic minority rebels rose up against Khartoum to demand an end to the political and economic marginalisation of their huge region the size of France.


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