UNITED NATIONS, May 13 (Reuters) - The U.N. Security Council on Tuesday strongly condemned an attack by Darfur rebels against Sudan’s capital, but warned Khartoum not to retaliate against civilians.
Rebels from the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) attacked Khartoum on Saturday, but were crushed in a battle with Sudanese troops. It was the first time fighting had reached the city in decades of conflict between the traditionally Arab-dominated central government and rebels from outlying regions of Sudan.
“The Security Council strongly condemns the attacks of 10 May perpetrated by the ... JEM against the Sudanese government in Omdurman and urges all parties to cease violence immediately,” the 15-nation council said in a statement.
The unanimous policy declaration urged “restraint by all parties, and in particular, warns that no retaliatory action should be taken against civilian populations, or that has an impact on stability in the region.”
New York-based group Human Rights Watch voiced concern at what it said were mass arrests in Khartoum after the fighting.
The council called on regional states to cooperate to put “an end to the activities of armed groups and their attempts to seize power by force.”
This was seen as alluding also to a February attack by rebels in neighboring Chad against its capital N’Djamena. Chad accused Sudan of backing the rebels, while the Khartoum government has blamed Chad for being behind Saturday’s attack.
The Security Council’s current president, Ambassador John Sawers of Britain, described the fighting in Omdurman as a “mirror image” of the assault on N’Djamena.
He told reporters Tuesday’s statement “demonstrates the council’s even-handedness in Sudan.”
Sudanese Ambassador Abdalmahmoud Abdalhaleem, more used to hearing criticism from the council over Sudan’s actions in Darfur, expressed satisfaction at the statement. “This is exactly what we wanted the council to do,” he told reporters.
U.N. officials say at least 200,000 people have been killed and 2.5 million driven from their homes by the five-year conflict in Darfur, western Sudan. Sudanese officials say only some 10,000 have died.