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Cablegate: Gos Bombings in North Darfur

VZCZCXRO5495
OO RUEHGI RUEHMA RUEHROV
DE RUEHKH #0691/01 1261436
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 051436Z MAY 08
FM AMEMBASSY KHARTOUM
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 0733
INFO RUCNFUR/DARFUR COLLECTIVE
RUCNDT/USMISSION USUN NEW YORK 0199
RHMFISS/CJTF HOA

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 KHARTOUM 000691

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

DEPT FOR AF/SPG, S/CRS, SE WILLIAMSON
DEPT PLS PASS USAID FOR AFR/SUDAN

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PREL PHUM KPKO SOCI AU SU
SUBJECT: GOS BOMBINGS IN NORTH DARFUR

1. (SBU) SUMMARY. The last week of April and first week of May
witnessed a spate of Government of Sudan (GoS) bombings in remote
parts of North Darfur against rebel positions. Civilians have been
the primary victims, sounding alarm bells for the United
Nations-African Union Mission in Darfur (UNAMID), which is
scrambling to determine how best to address the situation. END
SUMMARY.

--------------
THE PLACES HIT
--------------

EL-HELIF
--------
2. (SBU) According to JEM and UN sources, on April 29 the GoS
military reportedly bombed for three hours the town of El Helif in
North Darfur, approximately 135 km north of El Fasher. The GoS was
targeting training camps used by Justice and Equality Movement (JEM)
rebels. Due to the remoteness of this location, exact casualty
figures are unknown, although UNAMID sources indicated that one
woman was killed. JEM representatives confirmed this.

UMM SIDIR
---------
3. (SBU) According to rebel and UN sources, between April 30 and May
1 the GoS used Antonov aircraft to bomb the town of Umm Sidir in
North Darfur, approximately 63 km northeast of Kutum. Eight
casualties resulted and were evacuated, in coordination with OCHA
and ICRC, to El Fasher civilian hospital by two UNAMID helicopters.
Two of the eight evacuees were detained by GoS forces upon El Fasher
arrival, as the GoS deemed them to be combatants. UNAMID
Humanitarian Liaison Chief had been working to ensure access by
UNAMID Human Rights and ICRC to these individuals, but as of May 4,
the GoS denied such access, citing preoccupation with a visiting
Japanese delegation to El Fasher as the reason behind its refusal
(the Japanese Deputy Foreign Minister came to El Fasher to discuss
with the Force Commander UNAMID deployment and challenges). UNAMID
expects that the other victims will be similarly detained once they
are released from the hospital.

AIN BISHARO AND SHEGAG KARO
---------------------------
4. (SBU) Beginning at 0830 on May 4 in the North Darfur town of Ain
Bisharo, 350 km northeast of El Fasher and 150 km east of Malha, the
GoS again conducted an aerial bombardment using white fixed wing
Sudan Armed Forces aircraft from El Obeid. According to reports by
Sudan Liberation Army/Minni Minawi (SLA/MM) sources in the area,
three children of the same family were killed, with a fourth wounded
and in critical condition. The injured boy, aged eight, was
reportedly transported to the UNAMID military site in Malha, North
Darfur, and was awaiting May 5 evacuation to El Fasher. UNAMID
sources later reported that 14 had been killed in the attack,
including the three children and two women.

5. (SBU) More serious reports of casualties came in at 1730 on May 4
following an alleged SAF bombing in Shegeg Karo, about 50km north of
Umm Baru in North Darfur. According to unconfirmed reports from
UNAMID military reps, ten were killed and between 10-16 injured.
UNAMID Humanitarian Liaison officer told FieldOff on May 5 that 29
had been injured, 19 of whom required medical evacuation to El
Fasher, which ICRC would lead, using UNAMID helicopters, on May 5.
An ICRC team would be dispatched on May 6 to attend to the other 10
wounded on the ground.

HATTAN, EL HARA, JEBEL EISA
---------------------------
6. (SBU) Other areas in remote parts of North Darfur, including
Hattan, El Hara and Jebel Eisa, experienced similar bombings during
the time period between April 29 and May 3, with no concrete
casualty figures due to the lack of international (or even GoS)
presence in those regions.


-----------------------
THE COMMON DENOMINATORS
-----------------------

REMOTE LOCATIONS
----------------
7. (SBU) It is not by accident that these areas in North Darfur have
lately become targets for the GoS (which, sources indicate,
vehemently deny any involvement in these incidents). Their remote
desert locations and the absence of any international presence,
including UNAMID, are contributing factors. Eyewitness reports by
victims are the only source of information.

MEDOB TRIBESMEMBERS

KHARTOUM 00000691 002 OF 002


-------------------
8. (SBU) The areas bombed, in particular Ain Bisharo, Hattan, El
Hara and Jebel Eisa, are all predominantly inhabited by members of
the African Medob tribe. SLA/MM representatives claimed to FieldOff
that such targeting constituted "ethnic cleansing," as the GoS wants
to clear North Darfur of the Medob, starting from the Chad-Sudan
border and spreading eastward through Jebel Moun into Umm Sidir and
all the way to An Bisharo. The SLA/MM reps warned that violence
begets violence, and in the absence of a concerted international
response to this trend, "must we become terrorists to deal with
it?"

REBEL ROUTING
-------------
9. (SBU) The most likely explanation for this spate of GoS bombings
across this swath of North Darfur relates to the recent tendency of
rebel movements in this area, particularly among SLA factions, to
unite against the GoS. This region is home to Suleiman Marjan, the
SLA commander for North Darfur (himself a Medob as well), who has
reportedly begun to mobilize citizens against the census. Such
instigation provides the GoS with a convenient excuse to send a
warning to Marjan, although not for his anti-census activities.
Marjan has been involved in efforts to consolidate SLA/Abdelwahid
and SLA/Unity in this region. As SLA/MM reps pointed out, "Tragedy
unites," and they expected movements in the region to unite against
the GoS' latest aerial activity.

----------------------------
UNAMID SCRAMBLING TO RESPOND
----------------------------
10. (SBU) Initially there was no solid confirmation of the bombings
and therefore the GOS has received little public criticism.
However, now that there is multiple-source confirmation, the USG
needs to condemn these acts and point out to the GOS that this is
not in keeping with our bilateral discussions. Post suggests that
the Department make a statement condemning the bombings and
especially noting the fact that there were civilian casualties.
Post also suggests that the Department call in the Sudanese Charge
d'Affaires to inform him that these actions are not acceptable and
risk derailing our bilateral discussions.

11. (SBU) These events underscore the need for UNAMID to find an
effective way to monitor the ceasefire. UNAMID military is often
the last to know of the details of these incidents and has
accordingly been slow to respond. As of May 5, the Ceasefire
Commission (CFC) has been activated to investigate, but as of 1730
on May 4, some of its members had not been made aware of either the
Ain Bisharo or Shegag Karo incidents. Investigating these bombings
provides an opportunity for the CFC to get back to work, and for
UNAMID, in whatever monitoring capacity, to be seen by civilian
populations as carrying out its mission. Moreover, the UN and the
international community must remind the GOS that regardless of the
actions of the Darfur Peace Agreement (DPA) non-signatories, the GoS
is still bound by the DPA ceasefire mechanisms and should
accordingly be held accountable for violations.

FERNANDEZ

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