Sudan army says captured Muhajiriya area from JEM rebels
February 4, 2009 report from AFP (Khartoum) - excerpt:
Sudanese troops took control of the Darfur town of Muhajaria on Wednesday, two weeks after it was seized by rebels sparking some of the region's worst fighting in years, an army spokesman said.- - -
The rebel Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) said its fighters had pulled out of the town after being pounded by government warplanes on Tuesday and again on Wednesday.
"We are inside the town and are following the JEM troops," an army spokesman said, requesting anonymity.
JEM spokesman Suleiman Sandal said that rebels had withdrawn from the town in the western province of Sudan after renewed air strikes. "We are 30 kilometres (20 miles) from the city," he said.
Peacekeepers with the UN-African Union Mission in Darfur (UNAMID) reported ongoing shooting and an air strike about one kilometre (less than a mile) from their base in Muhajaria.
The fighting, for which there was no immediate casualty toll, had led civilians to gather around the UNAMID camp and Sudanese soldiers were carrying out patrols within 500 metres (yards) of the camp.
JEM chairman Khalil Ibrahim vowed on Tuesday to pull his fighters out of Muhajaria on condition that rival militiamen loyal to former rebel chief Mini Minnawi did not return to the town they lost last month.
At least 30 civilians were killed and 30,000 displaced in the January clashes. "It was the most violent fighting since the signing of the Darfur peace deal" in mid-2006, an UNAMID official said.
The peacekeeping force ignored a warning from the Sudanese government to pull out its 190 personnel from the town ahead of the army offensive. [...]
Sudan army says captured key Darfur town
February 4, 2009 report from Reuters by Andrew Heavens in Khartoum - excerpts:
Sudan's army said on Wednesday it had captured a strategic Darfur town after three weeks of clashes with rebels that U.N. officials say have killed at least 30 people and forced thousands of civilians to flee. [...]
Sudan's army spokesman told the state news agency Suna that his forces had entered Muhajiriya, 80 km (50 miles) from the south Darfur capital of Nyala, and were pursuing fighters from the insurgent Justice and Equality Movement (JEM).
"The Armed Forces have ... captured Muhajiriya area from the rebel Justice and Equality Movement and is pursuing the fleeing remnants of the rebel movements," the spokesman said.
Joint U.N./African Union peacekeepers said their forces in the town heard gunfire and the sound of three bombs falling around the town during the day.
"Civilians from the market converged on the UNAMID camp and they are still coming," said UNAMID communications chief Kemal Saiki.
UNAMID had promised to stay in Muhajiriya to protect 30,000 civilians, half of whom are residents, half Darfuris displaced from earlier clashes in the near six-year conflict.
Hundreds of women and children who fled fighting in the town over the past three weeks had also started arriving at displacement camps, many of them hundreds of miles away in north Darfur, UNAMID said in a statement. [...]
Sudan's government says the rebel group is building up forces in the region to mark the expected International Criminal Court's decision with a major attack on a city or oil field.
JEM commander Suleiman Sandal denied the group had been pushed out of Muhajiriya, saying it had withdrawn voluntarily to spare the population from government air attacks.
"We felt that the government would continue to bomb the civilians while we were there. So we withdrew a long distance from the town," he told Reuters.
He denied the reports JEM was being pursued. [...]
(Additional reporting by Daniel Wallis in Addis Ababa)