The Sudanese government attacked a Darfur rebel group Liberty and Justice Movement (JEM) hours after Qatari mediators and UN officials proposed peace talks, plunging the chances of a peace deal expected to be reached by mid-July. The clash in Sudan’s Darfur region claimed 50 deaths and wounded 101.
“There was a battle that resulted in numerous casualties. We were not able to count the number of dead and wounded because night had fallen, but one thing is certain: we won the battle,” JEM spokesman Ali al-Wafi reportedly told AFP by telephone.
According to the Sudanese Media Centre, Sudan soldiers attacked JEM positions in Uzban, southeast of El Fasher. 43 rebels were killed and 90 wounded, while seven soldiers died and 11 were wounded.
The attack comes a day before both sides were to enter direct peace talks in Qatar, throwing doubts over the prospects of signing a comprehensive peace agreement.
Sudan government attacked JEM in areas the Khartoum government believed JEM had taken over and sown chaos and instability, army spokesperson Sawarmi Khaled Saad was quoted as saying by AFP.
JEM and Sudan government signed a framework accord in February in Doha, agreed to a ceasefire in March, and began indirect talks on June 7.
In May, similar clashes claimed over 600 lives in Darfur, the worst monthly figure since the deployment of peacekeepers in 2008. Over 300,000 people have been killed and another 2.7 million displaced since 2003, according to UN figures.
According to Abdullah al-Mahmud and Jibril Bassole, a mediator for the United Nations and the African Union, talks between Khartoum and JEM have since run into problems and a deadline set under the accord for completing the peace deal passed on March 15 without agreement.