A ccording to Radio Dabanga, a Darfuri radio station, the Sudanese army has launched a major offensive against rebels in Jebel Marra, Darfur. Fighting broke out on Friday and continued throughout the weekend. The Marra mountain is a stronghold of the rebel Sudan Liberation Movement, led by Abdelwahid El Nur. Reports suggest helicopters and fighter jets began targeting Jebel Marra on Saturday and Sunday to support the ground forces and barrel bombs were dropped onto villages in the area. Radio Dabanga claims the village of Manabo was hit with 27 barrel bombs on Sunday. The exact number of dead has not yet been reported, but reports citing local residents - which could not be independently verified - claim thousands of civilians have fled into caves while ground forces set about looting houses.
The spokesman for the Sudan Armed Forces, Ahmed El Shami, told the Sudan Tribune that the army is fully committed to the extended ceasefire announced by President Omar al-Bashir on December 31. The army claims that the rebels have violated the ceasefire and had to act to deter further attacks.
The United Nations-African Union Mission in Darfur (UNAMID) has been overseeing peacekeepers in the region since 2007. UNAMID has expressed its “alarm” at the violence in Jebel Marra.
Over 300,000 people have been killed in the Darfur conflict since 2003. The Sudanese government has utilised the air force and pro-government militias against the rebels. Around 2.5 million people have been displaced by the violence.
The Sudan Liberation Movement and the Justice and Equality Movement, the two most prominent rebel groups in Darfur, are part of the Sudan Revolutionary Front, which was founded in 2011 and is active in Darfur, South Kordofan and the Blue Nile region.
Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir is currently wanted by the International Criminal Court on charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity. These charges include allegations of genocide against the people of Darfur.
Radio Dabanga, a station whose sympathies lie with the Darfuri people, reports on the offensive.
The Sudan Tribune looks at the war in Darfur.