Sudan Is Massing Troops in Darfur, Sources Say

The crisis in Darfur has been at the center of attention from the international community for the past few weeks, with growing calls for the United Nations to send in peacekeepers to end three years of fighting and alleged genocide. Despite this focus, the fighting in Darfur continues to rage.

In addition to calls for military intervention, there have been protest marches, conferences and celebrity appeals. But in North Darfur, African Union peace-keeping soldiers say the fighting is at its worst levels since the conflict began three years ago. Since then, an estimated 2.5 million people have been uprooted.

Since August, sources with the African Union peace mission say, the Sudanese government has been sending thousands of soldiers into North Darfur.

Recently in the main market of El Fasher, Darfur's largest town, an increase in troops was plainly visible. Groups of young soldiers lingered along main roads, and drove around in large troop trucks. They are being flown in at night, sources say, along with heavy machinery, probably Russian built tanks.

Analysts say the regime of President Omar El Bashir is trying to force a military solution, a final defeat of rebels seeking greater autonomy for the region.

A peace agreement signed in May by the government and one of the three main rebel groups has all but collapsed, causing former rebel allies to take up arms against each other.

But in Khartoum, Sudanese Foreign Minister Lam Akol denies his government is engaged in a military build up in North Darfur. He says it's just trying to defend itself against rebel attacks.

"So now, Sudan government wants to hit back in defense of the country and the citizens," Akol said. "Then people are talking of military build-up. There's no military build-up."

But Minni Minnawi, the leader of the lone rebel group that signed the peace accord, says he doesn't believe a military solution is possible. He is now an advisor to the Sudanese President.

"We will not believe that at all, because the military solution they started already, almost before three, four years ago, nobody succeeded on that."



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