UPDATE 1-Sudanese forces bomb town in Darfur-U.N., rebels

Sat Jan 24, 2009 6:03pm GMT

(Adds quotes, details, background)

By Andrew Heavens

KHARTOUM Jan 24 (Reuters) - Sudanese government planes bombed a key town in south Darfur on Saturday, a week after its seizure by Darfuri JEM rebels, peacekeepers and insurgents said.

Bombs landed close to a base run by the joint U.N./African Union peacekeeping force, UNAMID, in the town of Muhajiriya and destroyed houses, a U.N. official said.

A senior commander for the rebel Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) told Reuters 16 civilians were killed in the raid, including a young child. It was impossible to verify the figures independently.

Tensions have been rising in Darfur as all sides of a nearly six-year-old conflict are waiting for the International Criminal Court to decide whether to issue an arrest warrant against Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir for war crimes.

No one from Sudan's armed forces was available to comment on the accounts of the raid. Air attacks in Darfur are forbidden under a 2006 peace deal and U.N. Security Council resolutions.

But Sudan's army acknowledged its planes bombed JEM positions outside Muhajiriya last week. In the past officers have said they have the right to act in self defence.

The JEM seized control of Muhajiriya last week from forces led by Minni Arcua Minnawi, the only Darfur rebel leader to have signed a peace deal with the government in 2006.   Continued...

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