Darfur rebel leader returns from Libyan refuge

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A major rebel group in Sudan’s troubled region of Darfur said its leader Khalil Ibrahim has returned after leaving his Libyan refuge following the fall of Muammar Gaddafi’s regime.

Darfur has been the scene of an uprising of mainly non-Arab rebels against Khartoum which has launched a counter-offensive that has killed around 300,000 people, according to the United Nations.

The fall of Gaddafi has deprived Darfur rebels of a safe haven. Analysts say Gaddafi used to support some rebel groups with funds and arms, Reuters reports.

The Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) said its leader Ibrahim Khalil had returned from Libya where he had been since May 2010 when neighbouring Chad refused him entry.

Sudan had pleaded with Gaddafi to expel him. There was no immediate government comment on the JEM statement.

JEM was one of two Darfur rebel groups that revolted in 2003, demanding more autonomy for the arid western region. It is now considered the most powerful military group.

JEM has refused to sign a Qatar-brokered peace agreement which Sudan signed with the Liberation and Justice Movement (LJR), another Darfur rebel group.

Rebel divisions and continued fighting have been the two biggest obstacles to peace talks which have been ongoing since 2003 in Chad, Nigeria and Libya before moving to Doha.