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Cablegate: Slm-Unity and Saf Both Claim Victory in North Darfur Fight

VZCZCXRO8741
PP RUEHGI RUEHMA RUEHROV
DE RUEHKH #0882/01 1651318
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 131318Z JUN 08
FM AMEMBASSY KHARTOUM
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 1045
INFO RUCNFUR/DARFUR COLLECTIVE
RHMFISS/CJTF HOA

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 KHARTOUM 000882

SIPDIS
SENSITIVE

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

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREL PGOV MOPS KPKO SU

SUBJECT: SLM-UNITY AND SAF BOTH CLAIM VICTORY IN NORTH DARFUR FIGHT


1. (U) SUMMARY: Fighting between SLM-Unity and Sudanese Armed
Forces broke out on June 8 in North Darfur State. SLM-Unity
representatives claimed victory, alleging that they killed more than
150 SAF soldiers and destroyed dozens of SAF vehicles. SAF reported
they suffered only fourteen casualties and that GoS forces now
control the area. A second, separate clash may have taken place the
following day near the Libyan border. END SUMMARY.

SLM-UNITY DECLARES VICTORY
- - - - - - - - - - - - - -
2. (U) On June 8, the spokesman for SLM-Unity, Mahgoub Hussein
issued a press release on sudaneseonline.com declaring that
SLM-Unity succeeded in a military ambush on SAF between El Taweisha
and Gussa Jammat (approximately 200 km southeast of El Fasher in Um
Kadada locality of North Darfur State.) According to the statement,
SLM-Unity killed 157 SAF soldiers, seized five vehicles, and
destroyed SAF equipment including 19 military vehicles filled with
supplies, ammunition and some "internationally banned weapons
including cluster bombs." The statement reports that SLM-Unity
lost seven of its fighters in the combat. Chief Commander of
SLM-Unity, Abu-Bakr Kado, later told the international press that
the fighting continued for approximately three hours and that "We
fought them [SAF] because the government forces entered our
territories."

3. (SBU) On June 11, SLM-Unity leaders Osman Bushra and Sayed
Sharif confirmed in separate phone conversations with emboffs that
heavy fighting between SLM-Unity and SAF occurred on June 8.
According to these sources, SAF forces provoked the fight by moving
into SLM-Unity "liberated areas" on June 8. Bushra stated that
SLM-Unity killed approximately 150 soldiers, destroyed 80 vehicles,
and captured 8 others. According to Bushra, the commander of the
SAF forces escaped with approximately ten vehicles, and SLM-Unity
suffered six casualties and fourteen wounded.

SAF: WE ARE IN CONTROL OF THE AREA
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
4. (U) Also on June 11, most Sudanese newspapers carried a
statement from the Sudanese Armed Forces, stating that it repelled
an ambush planned by the SLM-Unity in Um Kadada locality of North
Darfur. General Mohamed Al Aghbash, the SAF Spokesman, said that the
SAF forces lost 14 soldiers in the ambush, but succeeded in driving
SLM-Unity away from the area which SAF had completely secured. The
SAF Spokesman stated that SLM-Unity left "a very big number of
killed and injured behind in the attack, and a large quantity of
military equipment which is still being inventoried." Al Aghbash
called other reports on the attack "baseless," as "SLM-Unity always
attempts to exaggerate in the media, while the facts on the ground
confirm their fleeing and huge loss both in terms of resources and
personnel."

OTHER REPORTS FROM SLM-MM AND UNAMID
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
5. (SBU) SLM-Minni Minnawi (SLM-MM) contacts in North Darfur told
fieldoffs on June 10 that the fighting took place in a
GoS-controlled area, close to SLA-MM areas. According to these
sources, SLA-Unity approached the area, but a SLA-MM commander
there, Abdalla Mohamedin, told SLA-Unity to leave the area. GoS
soon learned of SLA-Unity's presence and subsequently attacked, and
according to this SLM-MM source the GoS was "severely defeated."

6. (SBU) UNAMID's unofficial description of the fighting aligns
more closely with official GoS figures. According to the J3 sector
commander in the morning briefing on June 11, SLM-Unity killed 14
SAF troops, including a colonel, wounded 35 others, and took 19 APCs
in the fighting [NOTE: The Ceasefire Commission later told FieldOff
no/no APCs had been taken in the fighting -a report that appears
more plausible- but the CFC has yet to conduct an investigation in
this remote region. END NOTE]. According to these UNAMID reports
quoting GoS sources, 106 SLM-Unity fighters died in the attack.
These UNAMID sources also stated that GoS reportedly dispatched
Antonovs to bomb areas in the region in the aftermath of the
fighting.

7. (SBU) COMMENT: Conflicting reports are not unusual coming in
the vast and isolated landscape of Darfur. The numbers of dead,
wounded, and captured vehicles, in addition to the reference to APCs
taken by SLM-Unity, should all be taken with a grain of salt.
Although the figures are in dispute, all reports agree, at the very
least, that significant fighting between SLM-Unity and SAF took
place on June 8. If the SAF sustained losses even half of the
SLM-Unity reports, then reprisal attacks can be expected, including
aerial bombardment and Janjaweed attacks. There are also rumors of
another clash between SLM-Unity and the GoS on June 9 close to the
Libyan border in which SLM-Unity once again overwhelmed the SAF. If
such reports are true, it would indicate a level of command and
control within SLM-Unity sophisticated enough to coordinate

KHARTOUM 00000882 002 OF 002


near-simultaneous attacks at a considerable distance apart.

DATTA

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