More than a dozen civilians in a Sudanese village were killed Sunday in an airstrike conducted by Sudan’s air force near Tullus in South Darfur, where fighting has escalated between government forces and armed rebels. Both sides claimed “heavy losses” in soldiers and equipment, Radio Dabanga in Darfur said. Meanwhile, Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir declared victory Monday in the presidential election after winning 94 percent of the vote despite low turnout and boycotting at the polls.
The presidential election results confirmed Bashir will extend his 25-year reign, despite an International Criminal Court warrant for his arrest on charges of war crimes in the African country’s Darfur region. The court halted its probe on Bashir in December, citing a need to “shift resources to other urgent cases.” Election observers reported low turnout at the legislative and presidential polls, which were held April 13-16, due to voter apathy. African Union observers said only a third of Sudan’s 13.3 million registered voters cast ballots in the general elections. However, the National Elections Commission (NEC) estimated the turnout at 46 percent, the Sudan News Agency said Monday.
Bashir’s landslide victory was widely anticipated because there were no viable challengers against his ruling National Congress Party (NPC). Sudan’s leading opposition parties protested the elections by not fielding candidates. Western countries, including the United States, have criticized the polls for not being free and fair. Controversy over Bashir’s quarter-century rule has ignited violent and deadly clashes between Sudanese government troops and armed opposition groups.
The Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) launched a large-scale military operation against government soldiers in South Darfur. The spokesman for the opposition group, Jibril Adam Bilal, said Sunday the rebel fighters destroyed a Sudanese military camp near the city of Tullus. “We killed and wounded dozens of government forces, including the commander of a militia. We also seized a number of vehicles and weapons,” Bilal told Radio Dabanga.
The Sudanese air force bombed the area where JEM fighters clashed with government troops Sunday, claiming the rebels suffered serious losses. An airstrike south of Tullus also killed at least 16 civilians and wounded more than 11 at a market in the village El Tomat, Radio Dabanga said.
The Sudanese People’s Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N), the military wing of an opposition party, has also launched attacks against government forces and allied militias in Darfur and Kordofan states. The armed opposition group, which is banned by the Sudanese government, seized ballot boxes in South Kordofan earlier this month in an effort to disrupt the general elections.