Sudan rebel leaders in court on war crimes charges

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Two Sudan rebel leaders appeared before the International Criminal Court on war crimes charges Thursday over a 2007 attack that killed 12 African Union peacekeepers in war-torn Darfur.

Describing themselves as revolutionaries, Abdallah Banda Abakaer Nourain and Saleh Mohammed Jerbo Jamus said they welcomed the chance to clear their names and urged other war crimes suspects to also hand themselves over.

"I came here voluntarily in response to the summons of the ICC and I call upon everyone who has been summonsed by this court to come here to exonerate themselves," Banda, born in 1963, told a panel of three judges.

"We are here to achieve justice and I call on everyone who is wanted for justice to appear before this court," said his co-accused Jerbo, 33.

The men, who surrendered to the court on Wednesday, sat expressionless as the charge sheet was read to them.

They face three counts of war crimes allegedly committed in an attack on the Haskanita military base in north Darfur on September 29, 2007 that killed 12 African Union Mission in Sudan (AMIS) peacekeepers and injured eight.

The attack was allegedly carried out by fighters of the Sudanese Liberation Army-Unity under the command of Jerbo and splinter forces of the Justice and Equality Movement led by Banda.

"It is alleged that the attackers, numbering approximately 1,000, were armed with anti-aircraft guns, artillery guns and rocket-propelled grenade launchers," a court statement said.

The men allegedly destroyed AMIS infrastructure and stole items like refrigerators, computers, cellular phones, vehicles, fuel, ammunition and money.

© 2010 AFP

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