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Sudan accuses Darfur radio staff of working for ICC

KHARTOUM (Reuters) - Sudan’s security service accused staff at a radio station which focuses on Darfur of working for rebels in the region and for the International Criminal Court, which is seeking the arrest of President Omar Hassan al-Bashir.

Reports in state media on Saturday marked the first official confirmation of a crackdown on the Netherlands-registered Radio Dabanga, whose Khartoum office was raided last week.

“Radio Dabanga was working against Sudan, focused on inciting hatred among the people and aborting the peace process,” the Sudanese Media Center quoted a source in the National Security and Intelligence Services as saying.

“Most of the staff are working for Darfur’s armed groups or for the ICC,” the source added.

Sudan tightly controls radio and television, and refused to allow U.N. radio station Miraya to broadcast in the north of the country. The Darfur peacekeeping mission, UNAMID, has also been not been given permission to begin broadcasts in the region.

Radio Dabanga is one of the few sources of in-depth news on Darfur still on the air. Last week 13 staff at Dabanga and pro-democracy group HAND were arrested along with another prominent Darfuri journalist working for the independent al-Sahafa paper.

No was immediately available for comment at Radio Dabanga.

The ICC issued an arrest warrant for Bashir in 2009 for war crimes in Darfur and added genocide to the indictment this year. Bashir rejects the charges.

The United Nations estimates about 300,000 people have died in a humanitarian crisis when 2 million people fled a counter-insurgency campaign to squat in miserable camps surrounding Darfur’s towns. Sudan blames Western media for exaggerating the conflict and puts the death toll at 10,000.

Neither Radio Dabanga nor HAND has legal status in Sudan. After the ICC arrest warrant was issued several rights activists in Sudan said they were arrested and tortured while others fled the country fearing for their lives. Khartoum expelled 13 aid groups, accusing them of working for the ICC.

Washington criticized Khartoum for the arrests, and rights groups have said Sudan is using a referendum due in January on whether the south of the country should secede as a cover for the crackdown on Darfur.

Fighting between Darfur rebels and the army reignited last week after a lull caused by heavy rains.

The Darfur rebel Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) said it had fought with Sudan’s army in North Darfur on Saturday.

“Yesterday ... JEM clashed with SAF in North Darfur,” senior JEM commander Suleiman Sandal told Reuters on Sunday. “The army was moving to take control of the water sources in the region and we got this information and attacked them,” he added.

Three JEM fighters died and 13 were injured, he said, while the army suffered many losses and retreated. The army was not immediately available to comment but has confirmed clashes in the past week with JEM in South Darfur and North Kordofan, a region neighboring Darfur.

Reporting by Opheera McDoom; editing by David Stamp