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Sudan president heads to Qatar amid Darfur violence

Angry soldiers block entry to Burkina Faso town: official
Ouagadougou (AFP) March 28, 2011 - Angry Burkinabe soldiers on Monday blocked the entrance to a town in the east of the country after freeing a comrade jailed for the rape of a teenage girl, a local official said. In Fada N'Gourma, 220 kilometres (135 miles) east of the capital Ouagadougou, "soldiers blocked the entry to the town with tanks, we can't go in or out," a source from the local governor's office said. They then left in the direction of Koupela, 45 kilometres north, stopping tanker trucks to fill up with petrol before heading to Tenkodogo, 78 kilometres from Fada N'Gourma, the source said.

In Koupela, a journalist told AFP his vehicle had been "seized by the soldiers" who traversed the town shooting into the air, armed with rocket launchers and Kalashnikovs. In Tenkodogo, soldiers also shot into the air, "on their way to the military barracks" where some 50 soldiers joined them, a resident said. On Monday morning, the soldiers of the 32nd Infantry Commando Regiment freed a comrade jailed for the rape of a teenage girl after shooting in the air for around two hours and terrifying residents, a local official said.

In a similar incident involving the military, several soldiers in Ouagadougou last week streamed out of their barracks, fired in the air and looted stores to protest the conviction of five colleagues in a sex scandal. The convicted men were freed after the five-hour protest. In Fada N'Gourma on Monday, the soldiers "did not steal like their comrades in Ouagadougou but the shops closed," a government source said.

"Around 7:30-8:00 am, soldiers left the camp and started shooting in the air in the town with Kalashnikovs," a resident said. "People lay down on the ground in their offices and houses. All activities stopped," he said, adding the shooting lasted about two hours. "People have never seen that at Fada, shooting in broad daylight. People panicked," said another resident, Karim Lompo. "We all hid in the house, we did not know if it was going to start again or not." The head of the army, General Dominique Djindjere, was summoned to meet President Blaise Compaore on Monday, officials said.
by Staff Writers
Khartoum (AFP) March 28, 2011
Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir is to hold talks on Tuesday in Qatar, a key broker in the floundering Darfur peace process, amid reports of fresh air strikes in the war-torn western region.

"On his (two-day) visit, President Bashir will meet Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani, and the talks are expected to address the negotiations and the mediation efforts on the Darfur file," Sudan's ambassador to Qatar told the Sudanese Media Centre, which is close to the government.

Qatar has been hosting on-off peace talks between the Arab-dominated government in Khartoum and the mainly non-Arab rebels who first rose up in 2003.

The announcement of Bashir's visit comes amid reports of air strikes on a village in South Darfur on Saturday that wounded 13 people.

"A UNAMID patrol has confirmed air strikes at Khirwajid village, near Labado in South Darfur, on March 26," the joint UN-African Union peacekeeping mission in Darfur said in a statement.

"The incident left a reported 13 people injured, many of whom were taken to the mission's team site for treatment, as well as four houses burned and livestock killed," it added.

A spokesman for the Sudanese armed forces, which have the region's only air force, denied all knowledge of any such attack.

The peace talks in the Qatari capital Doha between the Khartoum government and two of the main rebel groups -- the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) and the Liberation and Justice Movement (LJM) -- have hit deadlock.

The head mediator of the United Nations and the African Union, Djibril Bassole, said last week that his team had submitted draft texts to the three parties assessing the outcome of the talks so far ahead of a planned conference in Doha next month.

But the JEM, the most heavily-armed Darfur rebel group, says the texts contain nothing new, and accuses the government of being unwilling to reach a negotiated settlement.

"There are no direct negotiations at the moment... JEM are not ready to sign any agreement with the government that is unwilling to reach a negotiated peace settlement and is taking unilateral measures in Darfur," the group's chief negotiator Ahmed Tugod Lissan told AFP by telephone from Qatar last week.

The head of Khartoum's delegation in Doha, Amin Hassan Omar, said the government had waited too long to reach an accord with the rebels.

A major obstacle to such an accord, say the rebels, was the government's announcement earlier this month that it will add two new states to Darfur's existing three, an initiative they condemned as a policy of "divide and rule."

A proposal to hold a referendum before May on Darfur's administrative status, and how it should be governed, was also heavily criticised by the rebels, with Lissan saying it could not happen until there was peace in the region.

Earlier this month, the UN-African Union peacekeeping mission said renewed fighting between armed groups and the Sudanese army had resulted in more than 70,000 new arrivals since December at camps in Darfur set up for those fleeing their homes.

On Sunday, the Sudanese Media Centre charged that the JEM was receiving military supplies from the government of south Sudan, which is poised to secure international recognition as an independent state in July.

It cited unnamed sources as saying the JEM planned to launch joint attacks against the Sudanese army before the autumn, alongside another rebel faction headed by Minni Minnawi.

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Burkina Faso soldiers freed from prison after protests
Ouagadougou (AFP) March 24, 2011
Five Burkinabe soldiers sentenced to prison over a sex scandal were released Thursday after soldiers protested their punishment, shooting into the air and looting stores, a military source said. "Taking into account the situation, the prisoners were released until solutions can be found by the command in collaboration with judicial authorities," a source from the army chief of staff told AFP ... read more

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