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Darfur rebels say near key town

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

Rebels in Sudan's Darfur said on Monday they were near a key town as demonstrations continued against a donors' conference where billions of dollars were pledged to rebuild the region.

The insurgents said they moved in to Ashma village, eight kilometres (five miles) from the South Darfur state capital Nyala.

Ashma was "occupied by our forces" on Sunday, said Hussein Minnawi, of the Sudan Liberation Army's Minni Minnawi faction.

He did not know whether rebels were still there on Monday, but he said they continued to hold Muhagiriya and Labado, about 100 kilometres east.

The African Union-United Nations Mission in Darfur (UNAMID) confirmed that Minnawi rebels "attacked and seized" the two towns early on Saturday.

Peacekeepers also reported "several possible air strikes" in the area and said thousands of civilians had sought protection around UNAMID bases.

Sudan's army spokesman could not be reached for comment.

Violence has also been reported in Umm Dukhun, in Darfur's southwest.

"UNAMID has received reports that in the last two to three days there have been more clashes, with an unspecified number of victims," after a member of the Misseriya tribe shot a Salamat tribe member, said UNAMID spokeswoman Aicha Elbasri.

A civil society activist said on Monday that demonstrations in camps for displaced people had continued for three days in opposition to the donors' conference in the Gulf state of Qatar.

"They said basically that the people in Doha are not representing us," said the activist, declining to be named.

The United Nations says 1.4 million people are still living in camps for the internally displaced, a decade after Minnawi and other rebels from black tribes began their uprising against the Arab-dominated Khartoum regime.

While the worst of the violence has long passed, rebel-government clashes continue along with inter-Arab battles, kidnappings, carjackings and other crimes.

"The conflict damaged and destroyed infrastructure, seriously curtailed markets and disrupted trade, employment and, as confidence eroded, investment in much-needed development of the region diminished," says a draft of the development strategy discussed at the Doha conference.

"Poverty levels in Darfur are among the highest in the country," it added.

Qatar said on Monday the conference raised $3.6 billion in pledges under the strategy which aims to lay a foundation for Darfur's lasting development.

"This is what they say on paper," Minnawi said, dismissing the effort and calling instead for a solution within the context of what he called Sudan's wider crisis "which is mainly from the centre", Khartoum.

He and other rebels, along with Sudanese opposition parties, want a "democratic federal state... based on equality," with a separation between religion and government.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130408/darfur-rebels-say-near-key-town-1