Sun, Feb 01, 2004 - Page 6 News List

Sudanese army captures town, seven rebel camps

ESCALATING FIGHTING Thousands of refugees have fled Sudan's Darfur region as skirmishes between government forces and rebels increase


Sudan's army has captured a town from rebels in the western region of Darfur and seven other rebel camps in the area, state radio reported on Friday.

The radio quoted an army statement issued on Thursday as saying government forces had driven rebels out of the town of Tine, which straddles Sudan's unmarked border with Chad.

Fighting between government troops and rebels who accuse Khartoum of marginalizing the arid region has escalated in the last month, forcing thousands of refugees to flee across the border.

The UN refugee agency appealed for funds to help move 135,000 refugees to safer places further into Chad.

"We are in a race against time to relocate refugees from the volatile border area to safer sites further inside Chad," Kris Janoswki, spokesman of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), told a briefing.

Rebels say Sudanese warplanes have been bombing 15 to 25 villages a day.

Journalists on Monday saw a Sudanese government warplane bomb a house in the Sudanese part of Tine, which was mainly deserted apart from a couple of rebels.

The army statement also said government forces had "recaptured and secured" seven rebel camps in Darfur, including Abu Gamra and Kornoi, both in northern Darfur state. The army said Kornoi was the biggest rebel base.

It did not say when Tine and the bases had been captured.

The western rebels began their uprising last February and fighting intensified after peace talks between the government and one rebel group, the Sudan Liberation Movement/Army, broke down in December.

A Geneva-based peace group, the Henry Dunant Centre, said on Friday three rebel groups in western Sudan had agreed to talks in Geneva next month and it hoped the government would also take part.

Aid workers and local residents said a Sudanese warplane attacking the rebels had bombed the Chadian side of the border on Thursday, killing two people and injuring 15 others.

The World Food Programme (WFP), another UN agency, said it was racing to deliver food to refugees in the area.

"All the ingredients for a humanitarian crisis are there -- difficult access, not enough food or water, and nightmare logistics," WFP spokeswoman Christiane Berthiaume said.

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