Sudan rebels say they shot down drone, government denies

Reuters News
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Posted: Mar 13, 2012 8:30 AM
Sudan rebels say they shot down drone, government denies

KHARTOUM (Reuters) - Insurgents in one of Sudan's conflict-torn border regions said they shot down a government drone which was doing reconnaissance in rebel-held territory on Tuesday but the army dismissed the claim.

The Sudanese Revolutionary Front, an alliance of diverse rebels who want to overthrow Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir, said they shot down the aircraft at 11:20am (0820 GMT) in the Jau area.

Jau is a disputed territory on the poorly-drawn border between Sudan and South Sudan, which seceded in July under a 2005 peace deal.

"The aircraft was flying in liberated territory on a reconnaissance mission, and as it entered the military camps, (rebel) anti-aircraft weapons confronted it," the rebels said in a statement, listing Darfur's Justice and Equality Movement as one of the rebel groups involved.

It said the drone had carried "1-3-7R031" as an identification sign.

Al-Sawarmi Khalid, Sudan's armed forces spokesman, said the report was false. "We haven't lost any unmanned aircraft," he said, adding the claim was either fabricated or the drone belonged to another party.

Fighting broke out in Sudan's South Kordofan state in June last year and later spread to Blue Nile state. The regions are home to tens of thousands of fighters who fought alongside the south during the civil war and have not disarmed.

The rebels accuse the government of provoking the fighting, while Khartoum says the insurgents are trying to spread chaos and overthrow the state with Juba's backing.

A separate insurgency in the western Darfur region has raged since 2003, when mostly non-Arab rebels took up arms, accusing the Arab-dominated government of neglecting the remote territory.

Rebel groups from those regions said in November they were joining forces to create the Sudanese Revolutionary Front.

Fighting has continued in the country's peripheries since then, but conflicting reports from rebels and Sudan's government are difficult to verify because access by independent observers is limited.

(Reporting by Alexander Dziadosz and Khalid Abdelaziz; editing by Patrick Graham)