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Cablegate: Jem Leader Comments On Downed Helicopter and Saf Movements

VZCZCXRO7243
PP RUEHGI RUEHMA RUEHROV
DE RUEHKH #0275/01 0571157
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 261157Z FEB 08
FM AMEMBASSY KHARTOUM
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 0032
RUCNFUR/DARFUR COLLECTIVE

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 KHARTOUM 000275

SIPDIS

DEPT FOR AF/SPG, AF/EPS, EB/IFD, AND EB/ESC
DEPT PLS PASS USAID FOR AFR, AND ALSO PASS USAID

SIPDIS
SENSITIVE

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREL PGOV PHUM MARR MCAP MOPS SU
SUBJECT: JEM LEADER COMMENTS ON DOWNED HELICOPTER AND SAF MOVEMENTS


REF: KHARTOUM 266, KHARTOUM 269

1. (SBU) SUMMARY: On February 25, Dr. Tahir Adam, the Speaker of
the Legislative Council of the Justice Equality Movement (JEM), told
econoff by satellite phone t$`estroyed by JEM
within one week. SAF, however, publicly denied losing any aircraft
to rebel fire. Adam also gave information regarding SAF troop
movements and added that JEM has unsuccessfully attempted to contact
the Chinese Special Envoy and the U.S. END SUMMARY.

2. (SBU) Adam claimed that SAF troops, supported by janjaweed,
continue to attack JEM forces in West Darfur. Adam stated that
Sirba, Abu Siraj, and Silea had been completely burned and destroyed
and that SAF continued to attack other areas near El-Geneina and
Jebel Moun. "There has been extensive displacement of people from
the area with people fleeing to Chad and other surrounding areas,"
he said.

JEM ALLEGEDLY DOWNS 3 HELICOPTERS
---------------------------------
3. (SBU) Adam also alleged that on February 24, government forces
attacked JEM near Jebel Moun with seven heavy artillery, two Antonov
airplanes, and one helicopter. According to Adam, JEM forces
delivered a direct hit with its own artillery to a SAF helicopter
near Kundube (15 kilometers north of Al-Geneina) resulting in its
eventual crash. (Note: Local press, such as Al-Sudani, reported on
February 25 that a SAF helicopter crashed north of El-Geneina, but
SAF attributed the loss to technical failure, rather than a JEM
attack. The reports said that the helicopter made an emergency
landing after which it burst into flames. One SAF spokesman is
noted as asking, "How can we receive artillery from an area that we
totally control?" End Note.) Adam claimed that this is the third
SAF helicopter downed by JEM forces within one week. However, UNAMID
has not verified JEM's claims, and has issued instructions to its
own field officers to carefully verify any rebel claims to military
successes.

SAF BUILDUP, INCLUDING TANKS
----------------------------
4. (SBU) Adam said that the SAF troop buildup continues, specifying
that four days ago, SAF forces were deployed to the city of Bolo,
northwest of Al-Fasher. According to Adam, SAF now has 125 land
cruiser vehicles, 120 military vehicles mounted with heavy weapons,
15 fuel tankers, and 25 tanks near Bolo. Adam stated, "This is the
first time that the Sudanese Army is trying to use tanks against
us." Adam also claimed that SAF shelling of the Jebel Moun area
continues. According to Adam, on February 24, SAF forces killed
three JEM soldiers (including one commander) and 27 civilians (20
men and 7 women) in the town of Kopt near Jebel Moun.

CONTACTING CHINA AND THE U.S.
-----------------------------
5. (SBU) According to Adam, JEM representatives in London have
tried numerous times to meet the Chinese. "We were always
unsuccessful and we have given up trying to engage them," said Adam.
He also stated that on November 27, 2007 JEM representatives
delivered a letter to the U.S. Embassy in London putting forth their
priorities and requesting a meeting with Embassy officials.
According to Adam, JEM will continue to seek more interaction with
the U.S. as, "We look with high regard at the American authorities
and we appreciate all the efforts by the Americans. The U.S. has
been the strongest supporQr of the people of Darfur."

6. (SBU) COMMENT: The Sudanese Armed Forces has a track record of
attributing helicopter crashes to "mechanical problems." Although
the helicopter destroyed on February 24 was most likely shot down by
rebels, we should treat all of JEM's claims with healthy skepticism.
JEM has repeatedly exaggerated and distorted facts for its own
self-promotion and bears major responsibility in provoking this
government offensive after JEM attacked and seize several
lightly-defended Darfur towns. JEM's claim of downing two other
helicopters earlier in the week has not been independently verified,
nor has the SAF made any mention of the loss of additional assets.

7. (SBU) Comment continued: Adam displayed a strong command of
detail, a high level of English proficiency, and an unexpected
amount of sophistication for one of Darfur's rebels in the field.
Adam is likely one of the core individuals contributing to JEM's
strategic communication program, one of the strongest of any Darfur
rebel group, though one that also uses the media to announce
exaggerated claims, boast of its military prowess, bring about
disproportionate Government counter-attacks and ultimately sow
violence and chaos to the detriment of Darfur's innocent civilians.
END COMMENT.


KHARTOUM 00000275 002 OF 002


8. (U) BIO NOTE: Dr. Tahir Adam is the Speaker of the Legislative
Council of the Justice and Equality Movement. He is from An-Nahud
in North Kordofan, and claims to be close friends with other JEM
leaders from the area, such as Ibrahim Abu Rannat. Adam later
studied at Khartoum University and has published a number of
articles (such as "JEM's Vision for a New Sudan") on websites such
as sudantribune.com and sudaneseonline.com.

FERNANDEZ

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