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Page last updated at 15:16 GMT, Wednesday, 14 January 2009

Sudan admits Darfur rebel bombing

Darfur rebels
Rebels in Darfur have splintered into a confusing array of rival factions

Sudan's military has admitted carrying out a wave of bombings in the Darfur region on Tuesday.

An army spokesman said they had targeted rebels who had failed to back the ceasefire announced in November.

The BBC's Sudan correspondent says it is highly unusual for the military to admit aerial attacks in Darfur.

It comes amid renewed tension over whether the International Criminal Court will charge Sudan President Omar al-Bashir for war crimes in Darfur.

Sudan's government has always rejected charges that it armed the Janjaweed militias accused of widespread atrocities against civilians in the region.

A commander from the rebel Justice and Equality Movement (Jem) confirmed that government planes carried out the attack, around the southern Darfuri town of Muhajiriya.

Map

In a statement, a military spokesman said the army had bombed the area to protect civilians living there.

Senior government officials say they have intelligence to suggest that Jem will launch a series of attacks ahead of an International Criminal Court (ICC) ruling, the BBC's Amber Henshaw in Khartoum reports.

Judges at the ICC in The Hague are expected to make a decision about issuing an arrest warrant for Mr Bashir by the end of the month.

The government has warned an arrest warrant could lead to an escalation of the Darfur conflict because it may embolden rebel groups in the region.

On Tuesday, Hillary Clinton - who is to become the next US secretary of state after Barack Obama is inaugurated as president next week - said the US was considering creating no-fly zones over Darfur.

The UN estimates that up to 2.7 million people have been forced from their homes in Darfur and some 300,000 have died during nearly six years of conflict.

So far only half of the 26,000 troops authorised for the joint United Nations and African Union peace force have been sent to the remote region, the size of France.



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