KHARTOUM, Sudan - Darfur rebels attacked an oil field in a rare extension of
their campaign eastwards toward the Sudanese capital and said Monday the
military garrison guarding the field had surrendered.
But the government said its forces
repelled the assault and were in full control of the Abu Jabra oil field
Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir addresses journalists from
various Western capitals in a three-hour long video conference on Monday,
Nov. 27 in Khartoum, Sudan. The Sudanese president on Monday again
rejected United Nations troops in Darfur as 'colonial,' but hinted he was
still trying to find a middle ground with the UN on how blue helmets could
support the existing African peacekeeping force in the wartorn region.
The attack on the field on the edge of South Darfur appeared to be another
sign that Darfur's violence was spreading across the region
"The government garrison guarding the oil field was totally destroyed," the
National Redemption Front rebel group said in a statement. "Numerous soldiers,
including high-ranking officers and generals, have surrendered," the rebels
said, claiming to have shot down an army helicopter and to have captured a
"substantial amount" of weapons and military vehicles.
A Sudanese military spokesman denied the army had surrendered, saying its
troops had "inflicted heavy causalities on the rebels, who withdrew from the
area." He spoke on condition of anonymity in line with official policy.
The rebel raid came amid heightened violence in Darfur, where pro-government
janjaweed militia have been accused by the United Nations of forcing 60,000
people to flee their homes this month. Violence in Darfur over three years has
killed 200,000 people and displaced 2.5 million.
Western nations are seeking to deploy UN peacekeepers in the troubled zone,
but Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir Monday restated objections to UN troops on
the ground, referring instead to a middle ground where UN peacekeepers could
support the existing African force currently deployed.
Al-Bashir's comments came as UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan said he was
expecting a final commitment from Sudan on a deal reached in principle earlier
this month for the UN to conduct a "hybrid mission" with the African Union force
Khartoum had first signaled it was satisfied with the agreement but has since
backtracked on the nature of the mission, opposing the idea that peacekeepers
and the force's command structure could come from outside the AU.
During a three-hour long video conference with journalists in several
international capitals, al-Bashir did not detail Khartoum's exact position on
the latest compromise deal, but said he had concerns over the force's make up.
"The Secretary-General's position is a positive step, but we have
reservations on a joint force and on its command structure," al-Bashir told
A Sudanese official in the oil industry said Abu Jabra's capacity had been
damaged in the attack, but insisted it would not affect overall production. The
state-owned facility pumps up to 10,000 barrels per day - a relatively
small output. The official spoke on condition of anonymity, citing the
sensitivity of the issue.
Observers fear Darfur's violence threatens to destabilize the entire region.
Neighboring Chad accuses Sudan of backing a rebel raid that briefly took a large
Chadian town and threatened the capital in recent days.
To the south of Darfur, the Central African Republic also alleges Sudan is
backing a local rebellion. Khartoum denies both charges, but aid workers in the
west Darfur town of El Geneina said they had seen Chadian rebel groups operating
freely in the area. The aid workers spoke on condition of anonymity because of
the sensitivity of the issue.
Sudanese officials say the country produces about 500,000 barrels per day and
that oil revenue should be at least $4 billion this year, more than half of the
Most of Sudan's oil reserves are in the south of the country, which is now
semi autonomous under a separate peace agreement that southern rebels signed
with the government in January 2005.