SPLA rebels scoff after Sudan govt announces halt to air raids

May 24, 2001 (AFP)

The rebel Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA) on Thursday dismissed as a "lie" an announcement by the Khartoum government that its forces would end air raids on rebel targets in central and southern Sudan.

"The Sudanese government's declaration that it would cease air raids on rebel targets in southern Sudan and the Nuba Mountains from Friday is a lie, as they have been saying all these before and continued with the bombings," SPLA official George Garang told AFP by telephone here Thursday.

"Even by Wednesday, they were bombing villages in Rumbek, Bahr el-Ghazal and southern Blue Nile," Garang said, urging the international community "not to believe a word of the Khartoum government's announcement."

Sudanese Information Minister Ghazi Salah Eddin Atabani was quoted as saying in a statement released in Khartoum that the government had decided to cease the air raids "in pursuance of the state's set policy for achieving peace and stability, bolstering the reconciliation process and the continued call by the state for a comprehensive ceasefire."

Atabani warned, however, that the Sudanese army reserved its right of "protecting its individuals and supply lines and coping with any aggression aimed at achieving any battlefield gains in manipulation of this decision.

"The government calls upon the other parties for an immediate reponse for boosting the peace process in the country and appeals to the international community to back up the call for a comprehensive ceasefire," the SUNA news agency quoted the statement as saying.

The SPLA has been battling successive Sudanese regimes since 1983 in a civil war pitting the Arab Muslim north against the mainly Christian and animist south that has claimed about a million civilian lives and displaced millions of people.