Sudan severs ties with Chad following Darfur rebel attack

By Mohamed Osman, AP

KHARTOUM, Sudan — Sudan severed relations with Chad on Sunday, accusing it of supporting fighters who assaulted the capital the night before, and warned that a top Darfur rebel leader was hiding somewhere in the city.

A curfew was lifted in Khartoum but remained in effect in the capital’s twin city of Omdurman, where rebels were still loose, state-run radio reported quoting police Maj. Gen. Mohamed Abdul-Majeed. The country’s official news agency said more than 300 rebels were arrested Sunday across Omdurman.

The surprise assault late Saturday was the closest Darfur rebels have ever come to Sudan’s seat of government, hundreds of kilometers (miles) from their bases in the far west of the country.

The government issued several statements claiming to have crushed the rebels and paraded images of captured and bloodied fighters on television. State media said 50 rebel trucks were seized in Omdurman and a neighboring village.

“I would like to assure people that everything is now under control, the rebel forces have been totally destroyed,” said Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir in a televised address Sunday, wearing military fatigues.

“These forces come from Chad who trained them … we hold the Chadian regime fully responsible for what happened,” he said. “We have no choice but to sever relations.”

Al-Bashir said he reserved the right to retaliate against the “outlaw regime,” raising the specter of a border war between the two countries who have long traded accusations over support for each others’ rebels.

The Interior Ministry called on people in Khartoum and Omdurman to remain inside while it searched for “infiltrators” — rebels who had doffed their uniforms in the fighting to hide among the people.

Abdul-Majeed told the city’s government-run radio that some rebels are still operating in Omdurman.

Extra checkpoints were still in place Sunday throughout Khartoum, and an Associated Press reporter saw at least three rebels being arrested in a northern section of the city.

State television for the first time ever broadcast the picture of Khalil Ibrahim, leader of Darfur’s Justice and Equality Movement, which carried out the assault, asking citizens to call a special hotline if they saw him because he was hiding somewhere in Omdurman. The government later announced a reward for information leading to his capture.