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Sudan 'plans huge Darfur attack'
December 17, 2004
The Sudanese government is preparing a huge offensive in war-torn Darfur, the head of the African observer team says.

Following a "build-up of forces in the past two weeks", Darfur is a "time-bomb which could explode at any moment," said General Festus Okonkwo.

Peace talks between the government and rebels have broken down after the rebels accused the army of breaking a ceasefire agreed in April.

About 70,000 people have died in the "world's worst humanitarian crisis".

More than 1.5 million have fled their homes, mostly black Africans being targeted by pro-government Arab militias.


The BBC's Jonah Fisher in the Kalma refugee camp in South Darfur says that every few minutes another horse and cart roles in, piled high with wooden chairs, metal beds, pots and pans.

They say they are fleeing attacks jointly carried out by the army and Arab Janjaweed militias.

Q&A: Darfur crisis
The government has consistently denied arming or working alongside the Janjaweed.

Gen Okonkwo, who heads an African Union mission of 834 ceasefire monitors in Darfur, says both sides are amassing troops and weapons in South Darfur.

"The quantity of arms and ammunition brought into Darfur to meet the present build-up of troops in the region is [so] astronomical that the issue is no longer whether there will be fighting or not, but when fighting will start," he said.

He also blamed the rebel Sudan Liberation Army (SLA) for the killing of two aid-workers in South Darfur.

"SLA was involved in the attack as two Land Rovers belonging to Save the Children (UK) were recovered from SLA camp in Jurof," Gen Okonkwo said.

The killing prompted Save the Children to suspend its aid operations in parts of Darfur.

On Wednesday, the Sudanese government said it would end attacks in Darfur if rebels did, raising hopes that talks in Nigeria's capital, Abuja, could resume.

Rebels left the negotiations, accusing the government of breaking a truce.

The peace talks are aimed at ending a conflict that has raged since February 2003, when rebels began attacking government targets, claiming that the region was being neglected by Khartoum.

Human rights groups and the US say that a genocide is being carried out against Darfur's non-Arab groups.


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