AL GEILI - Hundreds of kilometres from his family in Darfur, 15-year-old Mahmud Mohamed lies on a bed in the cement-walled sick bay of a Sudanese rehabilitation centre, the battle wound in his back still aching.
Mahmud is one of 89 "rebel" children being detained in two buildings opening onto a courtyard and shady verandas.
Children's drawings decorate one room while medical supplies from Unicef are stacked against the wall of the "clinic". Next door, Mahmud and four other juveniles, whom Sudan says were captured from the ranks of Darfur rebels who attacked the capital, lie in silence.
Dressed in football shirts or clean white dishdashas, traditional long male robes, and new flip flops, the children doze or watch satellite TV.
"I was in a car during the clashes, carrying a Kalashnikov. I'm hurt in my back from a tank that opened fire," says Mahmud in Arabic.
Gingerly easing to one side, a staff member pulls up Mahmud'd shirt to reveal a bandage taped to his back.
Mahmud says he was tending to animals in Jebel Moon, west Darfur, when fighters recruited him five months ago.
He says they taught him to use a Kalashnikov and kept him with about 20 children until security officers arrested and beat him.
Three weeks ago, the strongest military rebel group sped across desert and scrub to stage an attack on the capital.
They were defeated. More than 220 people were killed and hundreds of suspected rebels and sympathisers were rounded up in a security crackdown.
Juveniles, whom Unicef says range from 10 to 17 years old, are housed at the premises, north of Khartoum.
Bunk beds are lined up six to a dormitory. There is a prayer room, kitchen and vast dining hall at the centre.
Dido Mahdi Ibrahim, 15, comes from Chad. He insists Justice and Equality Movement leader Khalil Ibrahim personally ordered him into the rebel forces, handed him a Kalashnikov and promised payment if the attack succeeded.
His compatriot, Muntasir Omar, 14, says he spent two months with rebels and received "two days" training.
"Some people were wounded and others died. Some fled," he said, wanting to pass a message to his father saying he was here.
Many of the children parroted similar stories, though journalists were free to talk to whomever they liked. Many said they were captured while tending livestock and all they did was buy water and make tea for the rebels. - Sapa-AFP