Sudanese rebels say army broke a cease-fire in isolated region

By MATTHEW J. ROSENBERG, Associated Press Writer
Jan 24, 2002 (AP)

Southern Sudanese rebels said Thursday that Sudanese government soldiers attacked a rebel garrison in the Nuba Mountains, violating a recent cease-fire agreement for the isolated region.

According to a statement from the Sudanese People's Liberation Army, six government soldiers were killed during an attack Wednesday on the rebel garrison in Tulushi. Two rebels were killed and seven injured, the rebels said.

Sudanese officials were not immediately available for comment.

The cease-fire in the Nuba Mountains, in south-central Sudan, was reached Saturday in Buergenstock, Switzerland. Under the U.S.-Swiss mediated deal, both sides had agreed to stop fighting by Tuesday.

The agreement is supposed to open the way for relief and rebuilding programs to start in the Nuba Mountains.

The Buergenstock talks stemmed from the initiative of U.S. envoy John Danforth, a former senator from Missouri assigned by President George W. Bush to seek a peace settlement.

Sudan's 18-year civil war - one of Africa's longest - has been calamitous for the Nuba people, squeezed between the Muslim government dominated by Arab northerners and the black southern rebels.

From an estimated prewar high of 1.5 million, the Nuba region's population has dropped by two-thirds as army attacks on civilians and war-induced food shortages have forced many to flee.

The rebels have been fighting for autonomy for southern Sudan from the Islamic government in Khartoum, demanding religious freedom for southerners who follow mainly traditional beliefs or Christianity.

More than 2 million people are estimated to have died in fighting and related famines throughout southern Sudan since the war began in 1983.