Sudan: Bringing The War Back Home

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May 16,2008: Several firefights and at least one battle involving mortars have broken out in Sudan's Abyei region --- the oil-producing area between Sudan and South Sudan. Several thousand civilians have fled the area of the combat.

The first reported fight occurred on May 13 outside of the town of Abyei as Sudan Armed Forces (SAF, the "northern" army) and a unit from the Sudan Peoples Liberation Army (SPLA, the forces of the Government of South Sudan) exchanged gunfire. Two people were reported killed. Several firefights broke out on May 14 and one UN report said the fighting was "escalating." Abyei is supposed to be patrolled by combined SAF-SPLA units (the "joint" forces specified in the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement.)

May 14, 2008: The Sudan government demanded that the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) be branded a terrorist group by the international community. Sudan now admits that at least 200 people died in the JEM's surprise motorized attack on Omdurman, which took place May 10.

May 13, 2008: The Sudanese government said that it intended to arrest JEM commander Khalil Ibrahim, and have offered a reward of $2.5 million for his capture. The government (Khartoum) believes Ibrahim is responsible for the May 10 motorized attack on Khartoum. The secret police have been arresting known opponents of the government (including some Islamic conservatives) who are believed to support JEM's goal of overthrowing the current government.

May 12, 2008: JEM commander Khalil Ibrahim announced that the JEM would launch more attacks on Khartoum. This is to be expected. The May 10 attack was a spectacular raid as a motorized column with 300 rebel fighters moved over 600 kilometers to hit government positions and headquarters in Omdurman. And spectacular is an important word. These attacks are primarily "headline grabbers" and political statements.

May 11, 2008: JEM rebels staged a daring attack on the city of Omdurman. Omdurman lies across the Nile River from the capital, Khartoum. The rebels did something anti-Chad guerrillas pulled off earlier this year, which was move on vehicles hundreds of kilometers from western Chad to strike the national capital in eastern Chad. The JEM attackers, however, moved from western Sudan (Darfur) to eastern Sudan. You can do this in the Grand Sahel. Camel and horse-borne raiders have done it for millennia. A Sudan military statement claimed that the JEM fighters "infiltrated" Omdurman and wore Sudanese military uniforms. Casualty reports varied widely, but one statement claimed that 100 Sudanese security troops had been killed. Sudan claimed that it had arrested 300 people, many of them Chadians. In the aftermath of the attack Sudan severed diplomatic relations with Chad. The Sudan government also claimed that Islamist opposition leader Hassan al-Turabi was involved with the Darfur rebel group.

 

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