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Darfur Rebels Freed After Sudan Peace Deal   
 
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25-Feb-2010  
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Sudan has freed 57 prisoners from a key Darfur rebel group, the Justice and Equality Movement (Jem), officials say. President Omar al-Bashir announced the releases during a speech in Darfur's capital El Fasher, and declared: "The war is over."

The releases are part of a ceasefire deal signed on Tuesday by Mr Bashir and Jem leaders formerly bitter enemies. The deal raises hopes of an end to years of conflict in Darfur, however some rebel factions have not signed up. Jem's leader, Khalil Ibrahim, hailed the deal as "a very important step".

But he warned that a national election planned for mid-April should be postponed, saying Darfur was not yet able to organise a vote. The rebels were detained after a surprise Jem raid on Omdurman, a city just across the River Nile from Khartoum, in 2008.

More than 100 fighters were arrested and most were sentenced to death. Several have already been executed. But Justice Minister Abdel Basit Sabderat told a news conference held at Kober prison in Khartoum that the government had now freed 50% of the Jem rebels it was holding.

He added that the rest would be freed as negotiations continued. Reuters news agency reported that scores of people gathered outside prison, chanting slogans and thronging around the freed prisoners.
The agency identified one of the first to come out as Adam Abdullah al-Nur, who cried as he was swamped by supporters.

"My only concern is to give the people of Darfur their rights, to give any old woman or child their rights," he said.
Meanwhile in El Fasher, Mr Bashir, reviled by many Darfuris who believe he organised mass killings there, told supporters the crisis was "finished".

"The war in Darfur is over. Darfur is now at peace," he said. "The combat of arms is over, and the one of development now begins."
Mr Bashir is still subject to an international arrest warrant for war crimes in Darfur, over claims he supported Arab militias who massacred the black African people.

Under the peace deal, Jem rebels will be given a share of power "at all levels" in Sudan. Some 300,000 people have died and 2.7 million forced from their homes since rebels took up in arms in Darfur in 2003, according to UN estimates.
 
 
Source: BBC
 
 

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