Add Darfur rebels to terror list, Sudan urges world

KHARTOUM Wed May 14, 2008 3:51am EDT

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KHARTOUM (Reuters) - Sudan on Wednesday urged the international community to list the Darfur rebel Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) as a terrorist group, after its lightning weekend assault on the capital.

Sudan says more than 200 people died in Saturday's attack, in which more than 300 heavily armed rebel vehicles sped across 400 miles of desert to the western Khartoum suburb of Omdurman.

The assault was only halted at the bridge leading to central Khartoum, army headquarters and the presidential palace. It was the first time in decades of civil war that rebels from Sudan's peripheries had brought the conflict to Khartoum's doorstep.

"We think that it is beyond doubt that JEM is a terrorist organization and through diplomatic means we are going to ask them to hand over all the JEM leaders in other countries," said senior foreign ministry official Mutrif Siddig.

He said the foreign ministry briefed foreign diplomats on Tuesday, asking them to add JEM to the international list of terrorist organizations.

"We told them that through bilateral and multilateral institutions we are going to issue an arrest warrant for JEM leaders wherever they are."

Rights groups have expressed concern at reports of mass arrests, torture and two public executions of Darfuris and others caught up in a wave of arrests following the assault.

State media said on Sunday that 300 people had been arrested, but many more have been detained since.

JEM said on Wednesday authorities detained JEM rebel leader Khalil Ibrahim's wife in Khartoum for a day.

"Zinad Ali Yousif has never been engaged in politics and has never occupied any position in JEM," JEM said in a statement. "Her arrest shows how low (President Omar Hassan) al-Bashir's government can sink."

Sudan doubled the price on Ibrahim's head to $250,000 on Sunday and cut diplomatic relations with Chad, accusing it of backing the rebel attack.

Chad denies any involvement but analysts say it was likely revenge for an attack this year on Chad's capital N'Djamena by rebels Chad's President Idriss Deby says were armed by Khartoum.

Authorities arrested prominent Islamist opposition leader Hassan al-Turabi for alleged links to the attack but later released him. However nine members of his party mostly from Korfodan and Darfur are still being detained.

Family members said that other Turabi Popular Congress Party supporters have been arrested.

Most of JEM's forces withdrew from the capital on Sunday evening but the government has kept Omdurman under curfew as officials search for people still thought to be hiding there.

Darfur's five year conflict has claimed an estimated 200,000 lives and driven more than 2.5 million from their homes. Rebels from Sudan's multiple regional wars all feel the central government has marginalized their areas.

Khartoum blames the Western media for exaggerating the conflict and puts the death toll at 10,000.

(Editing by Jon Boyle)

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