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Justice and Equality Movement leader slain in southern Sudan

NAIROBI, Kenya — Khalil Ibrahim, a feared Sudanese rebel leader who mounted a daring assault from the deserts of Darfur to the doorstep of the nation's capital, died on Saturday from wounds he received in battle, the Sudanese government said.

Sudanese military officials said they had killed Ibrahim and several of his comrades during a shootout in the southern reaches of the country. Arab news networks reported that Ibrahim's family had confirmed his death.

A statement posted by the Justice and Equality Movement on its website confirmed its leader's death, calling him a "martyr." But it said that he was killed when his camp came under "an airstrike from an unknown airplane that aimed its rockets with precision unusual to the regime's jet fighters." The statement blamed a "conspiracy by regional and international players with the genocidal government in Khartoum."

Earlier reports said Ibrahim, believed to be in his 50s, had died on Sunday.

Ibrahim's death would be an enormous blow to the Justice and Equality Movement, the resilient group that he founded several years ago and that had recently teamed up with other dissidents for a multipronged rebellion against the Sudanese government.

Sudan is home to countless rebel groups. But Ibrahim's outfit, with its thousands of battle-hardened fighters and links to dissatisfied Islamist elements within the government in Khartoum, is widely believed to be the gravest threat.

Few in Khartoum have forgotten that Ibrahim and several thousand of his rebels streamed across the desert from Darfur in a phalanx of battered pickup trucks in May 2008, making it to Omdurman, a city across the Nile River from the capital. Government forces repelled the rebels only after intense firefights, which are unusual in Khartoum.

Justice and Equality Movement leader slain in southern Sudan 12/25/11 [Last modified: Sunday, December 25, 2011 10:41pm]
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