Sudan Claims Control of Darfur Mountain After Weeks of Fighting

  • Army urges people displaced by clashes with rebels to return
  • About 45,000 may have fled violence that began in mid-January

Sudan’s army said it’s in control of most of a mountainous area of Darfur after three weeks of clashes with rebels, calling on civilians who fled to return home. The insurgents denied the claim.

“The armed forces, having claimed control over Jebel Marra and secured all routes, passages and important sites, are calling on all citizens to return to their villages and homes,” military spokesman Ahmed Khalifa said in a statement published late Monday by SUNA, the state-run news agency. “The area is safe and stable and roads have reopened.”

Fighting that began Jan. 15 in Jebel Marra, which straddles three states in the western Sudanese region, may have forced 44,700 people to flee, according to the United Nations. Abdulwahid Nur, the leader of the Sudanese Liberation Army faction fighting in the area, denied his forces had lost control, Agence France-Presse reported. There was no independent confirmation of which force holds the territory.

Insurgents in Darfur took up arms in 2003, accusing President Umar al-Bashir’s government of neglecting the region. The International Criminal Court has indicted al-Bashir for alleged war crimes in the area. The conflict has led to the deaths of as many as 300,000 people, mainly due to illness and starvation, with about 2.5 million people currently displaced, according to UN estimates.

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