Sudan rebels suspend talks after chemical attack claims
KHARTOUM — A prominent Sudanese rebel group said on Friday it was suspending peace talks with Khartoum after a rights group accused government forces of using chemical weapons against civilians in war-torn Darfur.
The Sudan People’s Liberation Movement — North, which is fighting government troops in Blue Nile and South Kordofan, this summer signed a roadmap brokered by African mediators to end conflict in the two states.
But on Friday the SPLM-N said it would suspend talks with Khartoum after Amnesty International accused government forces of unleashing chemical weapons on civilians in Darfur state this year, killing up to 250 people.
Urging an investigation into the suspected attacks, the rebel group in a statement announced an “immediate suspension of political engagement with the Sudan government on all political matters, including national dialogue and peace negotiations”.
It said Amnesty’s report showed a “new dimension to the genocidal war in Sudan, and as such, the people of Sudan, the regional and the international community should take it seriously”.
The signing of the roadmap by SPLM-N along with two other rebel groups in August had raised hopes for a permanent ceasefire to be negotiated and humanitarian aid to be delivered in Sudan’s three conflict areas.
While SPLM-N is fighting in Blue Nile and South Kordofan, two other rebel groups — the Justice and Equality Movement and the Sudan Liberation Army faction headed by Minni Minnawi — are fighting government forces in Darfur.
Tens of thousands of people have been killed and millions displaced in the three areas where ethnic minority groups have rebelled against President Omar al-Bashir’s Arab-dominated government.
In Darfur, at least 300 000 people have been killed since the conflict erupted there in 2003, the United Nations says.
In September, Amnesty said it had evidence of the “repeated use” of suspected chemical weapons against civilians by Sudanese forces in Darfur’s thickly forested Jebel Marra area between January and September this year.
Amnesty said that up to 250 people — many of them children — had been killed in these attacks, but Khartoum has rejected the allegations.
Bashir is wanted by the International Criminal Court on war crimes and genocide charges related to Darfur, which he denies.
Sudan insists that the conflict in Darfur has ended, and it wants thousands of UN peacekeepers who have been deployed in the region the size of France since 2007 to leave.
Passengers escape the site of the derailment in Eseka. The accident claimed at least 60 lives and injured 600 people. — AFP
President Omar al-Bashir