(AFP) – Sep 28, 2011
KHARTOUM — Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir claimed on Wednesday that the army would soon capture the rebel stronghold of Kurmuk, in Blue Nile state, insisting there would be no UN-supervised negotiations.
"The armed forces will be saying prayers of thanksgiving soon in Kurmuk," he was quoted as saying by the official SUNA news agency, during a speech in eastern Sudan.
"The rebellion will be put down and the country's outlaws defeated ... Sudan will not repeat the experience of being obliged to negotiate and sign protocols under UN supervision," he said.
"Those who want peace must return. We have many forums through which they can negotiate, including the state assemblies, parliament and political parties," Bashir added.
Fighting erupted in Sudan's Blue Nile border state at the beginning of this month between the army and the SPLM-North, ex-rebel forces loyal to the state's former governor Malik Agar, after a build-up of troops and tensions.
Khartoum is now engaged in military operations against rebel movements in three separate regions along Sudan's volatile border with South Sudan, which gained full independence in July. These are Blue Nile, South Kordofan and Darfur. In Darfur, the main rebel groups made common cause with SPLM-North last month.
It has been very difficult to get independent information on the fighting in the border regions, with the UN peacekeeping mission disbanded after the country's partition and most international NGOs denied access.
Last Friday, a US monitoring group released satellite images allegedly showing the Sudanese army preparing to launch a major assault on the town of Kurmuk, using heavy armour and artillery, supported by helicopter gunships.
Situated on the Ethiopian border, Kurmuk was a key battleground during Sudan's devastating 22-year conflict between the former southern rebels and Khartoum, and Agar's forces regrouped there after the Blue Nile conflict broke out.
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