Hamburg: The rebel Justice and Equality Movement in Sudan's Darfur said that it has enough fighters and weapons to attack the capital, Khartoum, as clashes with government forces in the region intensified.

The group, one of Darfur's main armed movements, battled government forces in the western region of Sudan this week. Peace talks between the two sides collapsed after Sudan's President Omar Al Bashir and his party won presidential and national elections in April.

"The movement now has the initiative and the ability to enter any city in Sudan, including Khartoum," Al Tahir Al Feki, chairman of JEM's legislative council, said late yesterday in a telephone interview from Hamburg, Germany.

The group attacked a suburb of Khartoum in May 2008 in the first assault by Darfur rebels on the capital. More than 200 people were killed in the incident, according to the government.

Authorities have stepped up a crackdown on opposition groups following the election, arresting Islamist leader Hassan Al Turabi last month. JEM has also accused Bashir of breaching a ceasefire the two sides signed in February in Qatar, a charge the government denies.

JEM leader Khalil Ebrahim, speaking in a televised interview with Al Jazeera yesterday, threatened to attack Khartoum. His comments prompted Sudan's Foreign Ministry to ask Libya, where Ebrahim resides, to impose curbs on the rebel leader.

‘Back to war'

"The government honoured all its agreements, and he chose to go back to war," spokesman Moawya Othman Khalid said yesterday by telephone in Khartoum. "We are asking our brothers in Libya to limit his movements." Violence in Darfur increased in 2003 when mostly African rebels took up arms against the government in Khartoum, accusing it of marginalising the region. The conflict has claimed about 300,000 lives, mainly due to illness and starvation, and forced more than 2 million people to flee their homes, according to United Nations estimates.

The government has put the violence-related death toll at about 10,000.