Darfur Rebels 'Seize' Sudan Army Base
Sudanese rebels have seized an army compound in the Darfur region, the insurgents said on Saturday, as the Red Cross reported the release of three soldiers captured by rebels.
The pre-dawn attack came on Friday about five kilometers (three miles) northeast of Kebkabiya in North Darfur state, said Ibrahim al-Hillu, spokesman for the Sudan Liberation Army's (SLA's) Abdelwahid Nur faction.
"We captured the compound and all the equipment inside, with five on our side wounded," he told AFP from his base in France.
Hillu added that the rebels then repulsed a government counter-attack and are now "counting their bodies".
Sudan's army spokesman could not be reached for comment.
Kebkabiya is about 150 kilometers west of El Fasher, the capital of North Darfur state where violence has surged.
Separately, the International Committee of the Red Cross said it assisted in the transfer on Saturday of three armed forces members freed by the SLA's Minni Minnawi faction.
"The released soldiers, two of whom needed medical care, were handed over to the Sudanese authorities in North Darfur," an ICRC news release said.
"The SLA-MM and the Sudanese authorities asked us to assist in the transfer of the soldiers in our capacity as a neutral intermediary," Jean-Christophe Sandoz, head of the ICRC in Sudan, said in the statement.
Rebels announced on November 10 that they captured some government troops, along with an armored vehicle and other military equipment, in a battle south of El Fasher.
Escalating violence "has become a matter of grave concern", the African Union-United Nations Mission in Darfur (UNAMID) said this month.
Since July, civilians have been increasingly at risk from inter-communal fighting, harassment by militia groups and sporadic clashes between rebels and government troops, particularly in North Darfur, U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon said in October.
The Nur faction has several hundred combatants and a "sphere of influence" limited to the mountainous Jebel Marra area, south of Kebkabiya, said a July report by the Small Arms Survey, a Swiss-based independent research project.
The fertile Jebel Marra is home to the non-Arab Fur people who gave their name to Darfur (Land of the Fur), and who are represented by Nur's faction.
Government military operations and air attacks have regularly targeted the Jebel Marra area, the Small Arms Survey said.
Government forces are now massing for a new attack on eastern Jebel Marra, according to Hillu, whose faction split in 2005 from the Minnawi group dominated by the Zaghawa tribe.
The two factions cooperate with each other and other Sudanese rebels in an alliance against the regime.
Although down from its peak, violence persists in Darfur nine years after SLA and other ethnic minority rebels rose against the Arab-dominated Khartoum government, which they want to overthrow.
Impoverished Darfur is also dealing with a rare outbreak of yellow fever that health officials say is suspected of having claimed 127 lives in the region since early September.