Sudanese rebels approach vital dam
In this story:
January 15, 1997
Web posted at: 10:30 p.m. EST (2230 GMT)
KHARTOUM, Sudan (CNN) - Sudanese troops rushed to the Blue
Nile town of Damazin Wednesday to reinforce army units caught
short by four days of attacks along the eastern borders of
Sudanese rebels said their forces had advanced to within 50
miles of Damazin, and they were pressing on with an offensive
that began Sunday. Damazin, which is 290 miles (470
kilometers) southeast of Khartoum, is the site of a
hydroelectric plant that supplies 80 percent of the capital's
The rebels claim to have taken two border towns southeast of
Damazin and an army garrison near the eastern town of
Kassala, close to the border of Eritrea.
The Sudanese army contends Ethiopia was behind the first
wave of attacks, and Wednesday it accused the Eritrean
government of shelling a Sudanese border post at Gotned in
support of attacking rebels.
But the Sudanese rebels say they are responsible for the
And according to Yassir Arman, spokesman for the Sudan
People's Liberation Army in Eritrea, the latest rebel gains
mark a turning point in the war against the Islamic-oriented
government in Khartoum that took power through a military
coup in 1989.
The rebels want to end what they see as the unjust domination
of the mainly Muslim and Arabized north over the animist and
Rebels hope to spur popular uprising
Arman said the rebels do not expect to overrun the country,
but hope to weaken the government enough to provoke an
uprising of students, trade unionists and others against
President Omar Hassan al-Bashir.
The SPLA is the largest group of rebels in southern Sudan. It
has joined forces with the National Democratic Alliance, an
umbrella group whose forces are mainly northerners based in
Alliance spokesmen operating out of Cairo called Wednesday
for an uprising against the government, saying, "We call on
our people ... to escalate their struggle and bring forth a
popular uprising to end the evil regime."
But Sudan state radio reports that the country is on a war
footing since al-Bashir mobilized the army Monday, and is
unlikely to yield.
"Damazin is receiving convoy after convoy of mujahidin (holy
warriors) on their way to the front line," it reported.
Also in Khartoum, a battalion of women on its way to the
battle zone paraded through the streets to army headquarters,
where Defense Minister Hasan Abdel-Rahman Ali told them the
attack in the east was part of a plot against the unity of
Sudanese vice president flies to Cairo
The government claims the army has won victories at
Chali el-Fil in Blue Nile province and at Hamashkoureb near
Kassala. Information Minister al-Tayeb Ibrahim Mohamed Khair
said 200 enemy troops were killed at the second battle.
Meanwhile, Sudanese Vice-President Maj. Gen. Zubair Mohamed
Saleh, flew to Cairo "to review the situation in Sudan in
light of the recent military operations in east Sudan,"
according to Foreign Minister Amr Moussa.
Relations between Egypt and Sudan have been severely strained
since Egypt accused Sudan of involvement in a 1995
assassination attempt against President Hosni Mubarak.
It is well-known that in recent weeks, Mubarak and senior
Egyptian officials have been meeting with prominent Sudanese
opposition figures, including former Prime Minister Sadek
el-Mahdi, who fled Sudan last month.
Egypt and Sudan share a border and the Nile River. The
Egyptian government worries that a breakaway Sudanese
republic could try to claim water from the Nile now used by
Reuters contributed to this report.
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