The Sudanese army said it killed the leader of the main Darfur rebel group in fighting today and touted his death as a key victory. The army said Khalil Ibrahim, who led the Darfur-based Justice and Equality Movement, or JEM, was killed during a military offensive in North Kordofan state to retaliate for a deadly rebel attack there yesterday. JEM is the most organized and effective military force in Darfur. If Ibrahim's death is confirmed, it would be a serious blow to JEM, which has on several occasions threatened to bring down Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir's regime.
"The army cut all paths for the group as it was retreating and trying to cross into South Sudan to reorganize it forces," said a spokesman. "Our gallant armed forces were able to kill rebel Khalil Ibrahim along with some of his associates." Ibrahim is believed to have recently returned to Sudan after years in exile in Libya, where he enjoyed the patronage of Moammar Gadhafi. He once served in al-Bashir's government before joining the rebellion, refusing to join a peace agreement signed in Qatar and backed by the African Union. "He completely refused to come to the negotiating table, he never joined the peace talks," a Sudanese official told al-Jazeera today. "He committed acts against the state."