3 rebel ‘commanders’ killed in Darfur battle

A member of the rebel movement Sudan Liberation Army, is pictured in Forog, North Darfur, on May 30, 2012.  By Albert Gonzalez Farran (UNAMID/AFP/File)

A member of the rebel movement Sudan Liberation Army, is pictured in Forog, North Darfur, on May 30, 2012. By Albert Gonzalez Farran (UNAMID/AFP/File)

KHARTOUM, Sudan (AFP) – Three rebel “commanders” have been killed in Sudan’s southern Darfur, the insurgents and army both said on Tuesday after fighting continued in a region where the government has warned about insecurity.

The commanders of the Sudan Liberation Army’s Minni Minnawi faction died along with other insurgents in the battle at Hejair Tono, the official SUNA news agency quoted army spokesman Sawarmi Khaled Saad as saying.

He identified the dead commanders by name and said the battle occurred south of the railway line which runs southeast from Nyala, Sudan’s second city.

Saad said “a number” of government troops also died, but SUNA’s report did not specify when the fighting occurred.

“Yes, we lost three commanders as martyrs in this battle,” rebel spokesman Abdullah Moursal told AFP.

He said the fighting was a continuation of a battle on Monday at Marla, about 50 kilometres (30 miles) southeast of Nyala.

Both the army and the Minnawi faction claimed to have inflicted heavy losses on each other at Marla.

In another incident, on Sunday night the rebels shelled “in the area” of the Nyala airport but aviation was unaffected, said Hussein Minnawi of the rebels’ political office.

Army spokesman Saad confirmed the fighting around Marla but had no immediate information about an incident near the airport.

The clashes at Hejair Tono and Marla are the latest reported in the area outlying Nyala.

Last week the Minnawi faction said they killed troops in an attack on the Donki Dreisa base, about 50 kilometres south of the city.

A week earlier they claimed to have moved through Ishma village, 30 kilometres east of Nyala, which is the capital of South Darfur state.

On April 14, Vice President Ali Osman Taha “confirmed the importance of security and stability”, justice and the rule of law in South Darfur, SUNA reported, after the state’s civilian governor was replaced by a retired general.

A United Nations panel of experts said in February it had collected testimonies of insecurity, including “growing crime inside towns such as Nyala”.

Rebels have been fighting for 10 years in Sudan’s far-western Darfur.

While the worst of the violence has long passed, instability has been complicated by inter-Arab fighting, kidnappings, carjackings and other crimes, many suspected to be the work of government-linked militia and paramilitary groups.

Security in Darfur is worsening and militias need to be disarmed, the US charge d’affaires to Sudan, Joseph Stafford, said on Sunday.