Monitoring mission suspends patrols in Sudan's Nuba mountains

Aug 22, 2003 (DPA)

The Joint Monitoring Mission/Joint Military Commission (JMM/JMC) overseeing the ceasefire between the Sudanese government and rebels said Friday it had decided to suspend patrols and flight inspections in the Julud area of the Nuba mountains following growing tensions between the two sides.

A JMM/JMC statement said it would downgrade its headquarters in Julud to a liaison office with Sudan People's Liberation Army rebels.

Tensions have mounted in the Nuba region since Sunday when the SPLA arrested eight people the Khartoum press identified as Islamic aid workers. The rebels claimed they had illegally entered the area without notifying rebel authorities in Julud.

The JMM/JMC said the SPLA freed all eight on Thursday after the intervention of the monitoring mission's Norwegian commander, Brigadier General Jan Erik Wilhelmsen.

The government has accused the SPLA of violating the international ceasefire agreement it signed with the government in Switzerland in February 2002.

JMM/JMC police in the region have started to investigate the matter, the statement added.

The Nuba mountains region constitutes one Sudan's three conflict areas. Some two million people have reportedly died in the 20-year conflict between the northern Moslem government and rebels from the Christian and animist south.