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Cablegate: Heavy Fighting Reported in North Darfur

VZCZCXRO7050
OO RUEHGI RUEHMA RUEHROV
DE RUEHKH #1366/01 2511057
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 071057Z SEP 08
FM AMEMBASSY KHARTOUM
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 1843
INFO RUCNFUR/DARFUR COLLECTIVE
RUCNIAD/IGAD COLLECTIVE
RHMFISS/CJTF HOA

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 KHARTOUM 001366

DEPT FOR AF A/S FRAZER, SE WILLIAMSON, AF/SPG, AF/C
NSC FOR PITTMAN AND HUDSON
DEPT PLS PASS USAID FOR AFR/SUDAN
ADDIS ABABA ALSO FOR USAU

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: ASEC PGOV PREL KPKO AU UNSC SU
SUBJECT: HEAVY FIGHTING REPORTED IN NORTH DARFUR

1. (SBU) SUMMARY: On September 6 and 7, multiple UNAMID, rebel, and
civil society leaders separately contacted poloffs and reported
intense fighting between rebel and GoS forces near Birmaza, North
Darfur. (Note: According to UN maps, Birmaza is located
approximately 50 kilometers north of Kutum with a latitude of 14 39'
and a longitude of 24 35'.) One rebel in the field claimed that the
GoS force extensively bombed the area before an integrated
SAF-janjaweed force stormed the area with over 120 vehicles and many
more men riding horseback and camels. UNDSS sources said early,
unconfirmed reports indicate that the attack resulted in many
civilian deaths, a large civilian displacement, and the destruction
of Birmaza and Diza. END SUMMARY.

2. (SBU) On September 7, UNDSS sources confirmed to poloff that
the SAF, supported by janjaweed attacked SLA positions yesterday,
allegedly destroying much of Birmaza and Diza and killing many
civilians. According to this source, the injured have not yet been
evacuated, and fighting is ongoing. UNDSS sources also said that
there are unconfirmed rumors Justice and Equality Movement may be
deploying from Chad to support a broad attack in coordination with
other rebel movements (such rumors have ubiquitous for weeks
though).

3. (SBU) On September 6, at approximately 22:00 local time Senior
Presidential Assistant and SLM Chairman Minni Minnawi sent a text
message to poloff stating that SAF attacked and displaced many
civilians in and around Birmaza. El-Fasher resident and Fur
activist, Abdullah Adam Bashar Adam also separately contacted poloff
and stated that his Fur contacts informed him of a "wide military
operation in North Darfur." Like Minnawi Bashar stated that there
was "mass displacement" resulting from these GoS attacks. (Note:
Neither Minnawi nor Bashar have been available for recontact on
September 7.)

4. (SBU) On September 7, Bahar Idriss Abu Gharba of the United
Resistance Front told poloff that SLA-Unity and URF had defeated the
government and janjaweed forces who attacked Disa. He added that at
10:30 local time on September 7, the government attacked rebel
positions and more fighting broke out in South Darfur east of Jebel
Marra. When queried why each of these areas had been targeted, Abu
Gharba said he believes the government is launching a campaign
against rebel positions throughout Darfur, and speculated that after
the rainy season they would extend the campaign into Chad. Abu
Gharba stated that he believes that the GoS is attempting to solve
the problems in Darfur militarily in the wake of the ICC indictment
of President Bashir. He could not answer definitively on the number
of casualties.

5. (SBU) Also on September 7, a statement attributed to URF and
SLM/Unity appeared on the website sudaneseonline.com. The statement
claims that rebels repelled a joint janjaweed attack in Birmaza and
Om Maraheek. Unity and URF claimed in the statement that they
destroyed 23 GoS armed vehicles (out of a total of 60) and killed 93
camels and horses, along with capturing 12 SAF officers and 18 other
soldiers.

6. (SBU) Mustafa Ibrahim, an SLM field commander, also separately
told poloff that the GoS bombing of the area around Birmaza was
ongoing as of 12:00 noon on September 7. Ibrahim stated that the
GoS forces used over 120 vehicles in the attack. According to
Ibrahim, the Birmaza area is highly populated, filled with markets,
and vital to the people. "If the GoS controls this area, they
control the people," noted Ibrahim. Ibrahim claimed that janjaweed
"taken from Kabkabiya" had been integrated into the GoS force for
this attack. Ibrahim downplayed reports of rebels capturing GoS
soldiers, adding that most of the GoS forces had retreated following
the strong rebel defense.

7. (SBU) Also on September 7, URFF leader Alhadi Adam Agabeldour
wrote poloffs. (Note: Contact provided unconventional spelling of
his name and will be repeated as written. End Note.) According to
Agabeldour, the Government of Sudan recently established a new
militia in Darfur which has now been employed in the reported
attack on Birmaza. Agabeldour stated that the leader of the militia
is Major General Madani Badawi supported by other militia commanders
including: Mohamed Hamdan Dagalow (the Rizeigat Arab militia
commander known as "Hamati), Mustafa Shareif Mousa, Omar Sabile,
Alhadi Al mahadi Ahamed, Al Nour Ahmed, Yousif Abdullah Hamad,
Abdulrahim Mohamed Holi, Ibrahim Mousa Shareif. Agabeldour also
stated that some members of this militia were sent to a well-known
GoS training facilities in Eastern Sudan, near Port Sudan.

8. COMMENT: Heavy fighting occurred on September 6 and 7, though
the details of exactly which rebel groups, the motive for the

KHARTOUM 00001366 002 OF 002


attack, and the numbers and composition of dead and wounded all
remain unclear. Some analysts have noted that the area under
question was presumably under SLM/Minnawi control. Post will
continue to contact SLM/MM representatives for more details and to
discover whether there was any direct combat between SLM/MM
commanders and SAF forces. While the regime has downplayed the
fighting, some of the rebel claims - in terms of SAF casualties -
also may be exaggerated. The most controversial, and least clear,
element is the extent of civilian casualties.

FERNANDEZ

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