Rebels says Sudanese government violates cease-fire in isolated region

By MATTHEW J. ROSENBERG Associated Press Writer
NAIROBI, Kenya, Feb 06, 2002 (AP)

Southern Sudanese rebels said Wednesday 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, the rebel troops did not return fire during the attack "in respect of the cease-fire agreement."

No one was killed during the Feb. 3 attack on the rebel garrison at Tasare, rebels said.

However, government soldiers did occupy a position on a nearby mountain, in violation of the agreement, rebels said.

Sudanese officials were not immediately available for comment.

The cease-fire in the Nuba Mountains, in central Sudan, was on Jan. 19 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.

Since the agreement took effect on Jan. 22, both sides have said the cease-fire was holding despite reports of fighting in the day or two after it went into effect.

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.

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.