updated 8/17/2008 6:57:11 PM ET 2008-08-17T22:57:11

A Sudanese court convicted and sentenced to death two senior members of a Darfur rebel group and six others for their role in an attack near the capital three months ago, court officials and a lawyer said Sunday.

Defense lawyer Kamal al-Jazouli said the eight convicted include Abdel Aziz Ushar, a senior commander in the Justice and Equality movement and half-brother of the group's leader, Khalil Ibrahim.

Ushar was arrested days after the daring May 10 attack by JEM on the outskirts of Khartoum, where more than 200 people were killed.

It was the closest Darfur rebels have ever come to the capital, hundreds of miles from their base in the far west of the country.

The conflict in Darfur erupted in 2003 when ethnic Africans in western Sudan took up arms against the central government in Khartoum, accusing it of marginalization and monopolizing resources. As many as 300,000 people have been killed and 2.5 million displaced since the violence began. Until the attack on the capital, the conflict was mostly confined to Darfur.

Al-Jazouli said he has a week to appeal the verdict. He said he also has challenged the constitutionality of the anti-terrorist courts. The special courts were set up in June, following the attack, and have since sentenced 38 people to death.

The dozen charges against the defendants included waging war against the state and the illicit use of weapons. Another 20 await a verdict on Wednesday in the same case. Hundreds of Darfurians were arrested after the attack, and it remains unclear how many remain behind bars.

Suleiman Sandal, a senior JEM commander in Darfur, vowed revenge if the death sentences against Ushar and others were carried out.

"We swore if they go ahead with the execution, we will exact vengeance from anyone who performs it," Sandal said in a satellite phone interview.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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