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Sudan rebels suspend hostilities in Blue Nile and South Kordofan

Leader of SPLM-N orders three-month suspension 'to give a chance for an immediate transfer of power to civilians'
A member of the Sudanese Popular Defence Force, a paramilitary group that has frequently fought on the side of Sudanese armed forces against rebels in Darfur, Blue Nile, and South Kordofan (AFP)

Abdulaziz al-Hilu, the leader of Sudan's People's Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N), has ordered a three-month suspension of hostilities in Blue Nile and South Kordofan states where his forces have been fighting government troops.

"As a goodwill gesture... to give a chance for an immediate transfer of power to civilians, I, commander of SPLM-N, announce the suspending of hostilities for three months in all areas under its control until July 31, 2019," Hilu said in a statement on Wednesday.

Hilu's announcement comes days after Sudan's new military rulers, who took power last week after toppling veteran president Omar al-Bashir, declared a ceasefire in all three of the country's conflict zones - including the western region of Darfur.

The army announced that a transitional military council would rule for up to two years and then hold elections, but protesters have called for an immediate handover of power to civilians.

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The SPLM-N, which has allied itself with the protest movement that campaigned for Bashir's overthrow, has several thousand fighters, tanks and other heavy weapons, and is by far Sudan's largest rebel group. 

It has a presence in Blue Nile and controls large swathes of territory in South Kordofan, especially in the Nuba Mountains area.

Blue Nile and South Kordofan lie on the border with South Sudan and there was strong support in both states for the decades-long rebellion that culminated in the south's secession in 2011.

The SPLM-N was the northern arm of the Sudan People's Liberation Movement, which is now the ruling party in South Sudan.

However, it splintered from them after independence and continued an insurgency against Bashir in the two southern states that remained within Sudan.

The brutal conflict has since claimed thousands of lives.