The leader of Darfur's main rebel group, Khalil Ibrahim, was killed in fighting early yesterday west of the capital Khartoum, the Sudanese army has announced.
The army said Mr Ibrahim died along with several of his associates during a military offensive in North Kordofan, launched in retaliation for a rebel attack on Saturday.
Mr Ibrahim led the Darfur-based Justice and Equality Movement, which proved to be the most organised and effective military power in the region. It had threatened to bring down the regime in Khartoum by advancing toward the capital on several occasions and did not join a peace deal signed last year in Doha, Qatar between other Darfur rebel groups and Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir's government in Khartoum.
Darfur has been in turmoil since 2003, when ethnic African rebels accusing the Arab-dominated Sudanese government of discrimination took up arms against it. The Khartoum government is accused of retaliating by unleashing Arab militias on civilians — a charge the government denies.
The conflict has tapered off since 2009, but the UN estimates that 300,000 people died and 2.7 million have been displaced. The International Criminal Court in the Hague has issued an international arrest warrant for al-Bashir for his alleged role in crimes against humanity in Darfur.