Sudan Charges Red Cross Aided Rebels, Suspends Its Operations
KHARTOUM, Sudan (AP) _ Sudan has suspended Red Cross activities in the country after accusing the relief group of allowing rebels to haul fighters and ammunition in one of its planes.
The International Committee of the Red Cross denied the charges Wednesday, saying both the government and the rebel Sudan People’s Liberation Army knew in advance about the flight and the identities of those aboard.
The government, in an official statement late Tuesday, said it made the decision after confirming that a small plane was carrying five rebels and 20 boxes of ammunition when it landed in the southern region of Bahr el-Ghazal on Friday.
``It has become clear beyond doubt that the ICRC is involved in transporting ammunitions and armed soldiers for the rebel group,″ said Social Planning Minister Mohammed Osman Khalifa.
Tony Burgener, chief spokesman at International Committee of the Red Cross in Geneva, denied the charges.
``We had the green light from the authorities in Khartoum, as well as from the SPLA, and they knew who was on the plane,″ Burgener said.
He confirmed that the plane was carrying five people from southern Sudan, though he did not confirm that they were rebels. A later statement from the ICRC said the five were being returned home after medical treatment.
Red Cross operations have long included treating wounded combatants from both sides in its hospital in northern Kenya and returning them to their home regions, Burgener said.
Southern Sudan has been ravaged by civil war since 1983, pitting rebels from the mainly animist and Christian south against government troops from the Muslim north. Successive Khartoum governments have frequently accused foreign aid groups of providing logistical support to the southern rebels.