KHARTOUM Sudanese government planes bombed rebel positions in Darfur, rebels and international sources said on Monday of the latest violence that has turned parts of West Darfur into a "no go" zone for aid workers.
Government Antonov aircraft bombed two villages near west Darfur's capital el Geneina on Sunday afternoon and Monday morning, a field commander from the rebel Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) told Reuters.
"They killed three citizens, two women and one man," said JEM commander Abdel Aziz el-Nur Ashr.
Ashr said the attacks targeted JEM positions involved in a recent rebel push into territory surrounding el Geneina.
A spokesman for Sudan's armed forces said he would look into the reports but did not return further calls.
The Sunday attack was confirmed by international sources in the area who said government planes were used.
JEM, which is a formidable rebel military force in Darfur, has claimed a series of victories over government troops around the town in recent weeks -- claims dismissed as propaganda in state media.
Humanitarian workers said they have had to freeze large parts of their operations in the area following the surge in violence involving JEM, Sudan's armed forces and bandits.
Adding to the turmoil, Sudan's neighbor Chad was also accused of launching at least two bombing raids on Chadian rebel positions close to el Geneina in the past two weeks.
Chad and Sudan accuse each other of backing insurgent groups bent on removing their respective regimes.
"NO GO ZONE"
"West Darfur has been much worse over the past couple of weeks," said a worker for an aid group that operates in the state. "Because of the (Chadian) bombing and the JEM offensive, everything is pretty much on hold at the moment."
"All the roads around el Geneina are no-go areas right now," said Emilia Casella, spokeswoman for the U.N.'s World Food Programme (WFP). "The humanitarian community in general is being prevented from doing its job."
She said armed men fired on a WFP vehicle in el Geneina on Sunday afternoon, wounding a driver in the arm. It was the latest in a series of attacks on WFP convoys that has hampered the distribution of food aid across Darfur, she added.
Armed groups seized WFP vehicles in two separate raids in southern Darfur on Tuesday and Wednesday, said Casella. Seven contract drivers, taken by the hijackers with their vehicles, were still missing.
"In December, we were unable to reach 160,000 people in Darfur because of incidents to do with security," said Casella, adding staff had managed to feed 2.1 million Darfuris in the same period, most of them displaced in camps.
International experts say more than 200,000 people have been killed in almost five years of rape, killing and looting in Darfur. More than 2.5 million have also been driven from their homes since mostly non-Arab rebels took up arms in early 2003 accusing central government of neglect.
Darfuris have been caught up in a spiral of violence and lawlessness as rebel groups splintered and small arms spread.
The latest round of peace talk between Sudan's government and rebel groups in the Libyan city of Sirte fizzled out in October when most insurgent groups decided to boycott them.
The U.N.'s Darfur envoy Jan Eliasson, and his African Union counterpart Salim Ahmed Salim, were due to start a week-long visit to Darfur on Tuesday in a bid to persuade insurgents to unify their negotiating positions and rejoin the peace process.
(editing by Mary Gabriel)