Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Sudan's Islamist Dictatorship Arms Darfur Mass Murderers

More from the annals of increasingly implausible deniability...

from the Telegraph "We were armed by Sudan" say Darfur killers:

By Nima El Bagir

Adjusting his camouflage turban, the commander pointed at the weapons and vehicles inside his camp in Sudan's war-torn region of Darfur.

  • Telegraph TV: Preview of 'Unreported World: Meet the Janjaweed'
  • "All the hardware that we have - where did we get it from?" said Mohammed Hamdan. "Do you think we just magicked it out of the air? It belongs to the government."

    President Omar Hassan al-Bashir: We were armed by Sudan, say Darfur killers
    President Omar Hassan al-Bashir has always
    denied any link with the Janjaweed

    With those words, he destroyed a myth carefully crafted by Sudan's regime.

    Hamdan commands hundreds of gunmen from the notorious Janjaweed militia, which human rights groups blame for countless atrocities in Darfur's civil war.

    President Omar al-Bashir's Arab-dominated regime has always denied any link with the Janjaweed.

    Instead, Mr Bashir has denounced them as "bandits and thieves" and denied giving them any arms or supplies.

    Yet Hamdan spoke near a Toyota Land Cruiser, mounted with a heavy machinegun, and his fighters were armed with mortars, anti-aircraft guns and Kalashnikov rifles. "The weapons, the cars, all that you see, we got it from the government," he said.

    This support was given in direct breach of United Nations Resolution 1556, passed in July 2004, which gave Sudan's regime 30 days to disarm the Janjaweed and bring their leaders to justice.

    Hamdan, 31, has been named by Human Rights Watch as a Janjaweed commander.

    From his camp near the town of Um Al-Qura in Southern Darfur province, he now claims to control 20,000 gunmen. These Arab fighters were originally armed and raised by Khartoum to fight Darfur's black African rebels.

    The Khartoum regime might disown them now, but Hamdan said that his orders came directly from Mr Bashir.

    He claimed to have met the president twice in September 2006. "They asked for a meeting with us," he said. "There were two places that had fallen to the rebels: Um Sidir and Kiryari [in Northern Darfur]. After they fell, they called upon us - of course as part of the army - to go to the northern areas. We asked for the hardware that you now see with us. And they provided us with cars and weaponry, and we moved to the northern area."

    Graphic: Map of Sudan region

    He claimed that both meetings took place in the presence of Abdul Rahim Mohammed Hussein, Sudan's defence minister. "One meeting with the president was in his home, and the other was in the armed forces' headquarters," said Hamdan.

    Using the weapons supplied by the regime, he managed to block a rebel assault into Northern Darfur in 2006. He was then entrusted with securing Southern Darfur province against the insurgents.

    He had his first contact with the regime at the outset of Darfur's war in 2003. Hamdan said he was personally recruited to fight the rebels. "There was a general call to arms, to the entirety of Sudan after the rebellion began," he said. "The Sudanese government then specifically came to us."

    He added that Sudan's regular army "sent officers to us who signed people up and trained us". Hamdan was trained at a camp west of Nyala, the provincial capital of Southern Darfur.

    He was instructed alongside regular soldiers at an official military training centre. Hamdan produced his snakeskin wallet and took out a Sudanese army identity card. One of his followers, whom he described as his chief of staff, also produced one.

    Each contained the Arabic words: "Identity for Officers and Soldiers, Armed Forces Commission for Intelligence and Security." There was an identity number, a photograph, and a hologram of the Sudanese armed forces insignia.

    Hamdan rejected the label Janjaweed, which translates as "devils on horseback" for the mounted raids typical of the militia. He does not deny that other Arab fighters committed atrocities in Darfur, only his own guilt.

    "We only fought against the rebels," he said. "In fact, there were times when we would receive orders to take part in operations in civilian areas." Hamdan said he always refused to obey these orders.

    Others would disagree. The African Union, an alliance of all 53 countries on the continent, has sent a team of observers to Darfur. According to one of their reports, Hamdan was one of three Janjaweed commanders who led an attack on the village of Adwah on Nov 30, 2004, in which women were beaten and raped and more than 200 people killed.

    Now that Hamdan has disclosed his relationship with the regime, the central question is whether Khartoum will maintain its bluster and denial.

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