Sudanese army in Darfur assault

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The Independent Online

The Sudanese army began an offensive in the mountainous Jabel Moun area yesterday in its latest attempt to reclaim the West Darfur district from insurgents who took up arms five years ago.

The United Nations expressed concern over the safety of Darfuri civilians who had sought refuge in the rebel-held area near the Chad border after the government took back three major towns near the state capital El-Geneina on 8 February and following reports of bombing on Monday.

Sudan's army spokesman said the army had begun a "cleansing" operation of the whole area. Chad and Sudan accuse each other of supporting insurgents in Darfur and eastern Chad.

The UN refugee agency said it was evacuating six or seven staff from the Chad side of the border where up to 12,000 Darfur refugees had gathered since the 8 February offensive.

Mostly non-Arab rebels took up arms in Darfur in 2003 accusing central government of neglect of the region. Experts estimate 200,000 have died and 2.5 million have been driven from their homes. A joint UN-African Union mission took over peacekeeping duties in December but has so far not enough troops there to do its job properly.