Cablegate: Where Are Darfur's Hijacked Cars and Trucks?

DE RUEHKH #1438/01 2670531
O 230531Z SEP 08




E.O. 12958: N/A

1. (SBU) SUMMARY: Darfur's hijacking is a complex phenomenon,
according to UNAMID, INGOs, and local contacts based in El-Fasher
and Nyala. Most sources placed the majority of the blame on many
different rebel movements, with one contact describing a
transportation chain through SLM/MM and SLA/Unity-controlled areas
from southeast to northwest Darfur. Most contacts claimed that
vehicles are sold in Chad and Libya at a fraction of their value.
See para 15 for recommendations on reducing the number of hijacked
cars and trucks. END SUMMARY.

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2. (SBU) UNAMID, SLM/Minnawi, and INGO contacts all stated that
large transportation trucks and Toyota Landcruisers are the two
types of vehicles almost exclusively hijacked. However, vehicles
ranging from motorcycles, bicycles, or even sewage trucks have all
been hijacked in Darfur. (Note: On September 11, 2008 the UN News
Center reported that a sewage truck was hijacked outside of
El-Fasher. The report does not mention whether the truck was full at
the time. End Note.) World Vision's local employee At Tayyeb
Muhammad said that with respect to personal vehicles, the only type
of vehicle ever stolen is the Toyota Landcruiser in one of its many
forms (buffalo, pickup, four door, etc.) (Note: Muhammad is a local
security advisor for World Vision in Nyala and will soon become an
employee for the Embassy's Regional Security Office. End Note.)

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3. (SBU) Most contacts stated that Landcruisers are sold in Chad
and Libya at a fraction of their value. Sources stated that
depending on condition and age, Lancruisers are sold in Chad for a
price between 2500 to 7500 USD. At-Tayyeb Muhammad told poloff that
a hijacked vehicle is worth more in Chad than in Sudan, as "no one
cares if you have a stolen vehicle there, and no one will ever ask
you for registration or a license." He joked that Chadians view the
Sudanese border as a "free trade zone." UN Security officers told
emboffs that large trucks are sold for between forty to seventy
thousand dollars in Chad or Libya. Larger trucks are often traded
for Landcruisers, which are often then used by the rebel movements.

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4. (SBU) UN Security in El-Fasher believes that SLM/MM and
SLM/Unity are largely responsible for the banditry, while UN
Security in Nyala noted that all major rebel movements are involved.
UN Security in Nyala estimated that rebels or individuals with
connections to the movements steal 60 percent of all vehicles.
Almost all rebel groups, including disaffected Arab militias, are
often behind many of the carjackings. UN Security sources stated
that JEM has carried out some carjackings, though to a lesser extent
than other movements. (Note: The GoS accused JEM of using cars
stolen from the humanitarian community in the May 10 Omdurman
attack, putting several of these vehicles on display in Omdurman.
End note.) SLM/MM contacts in Nyala admitted that isolated
individuals in their movement "have only once or twice stolen cars."
SLM/MM's Issam Hama of the South Darfur Legislative Council told
poloff on September 17 that "no one can hijack a car in the city
unless he is protected by the GoS" alleging that most of the
highjacking in Nyala takes place in the north of the city where the
Border Intelligence Force and Central Reserve Police have a
significant presence. (Note: This week two vehicles owned by the
Humanitarian Affairs Commission were reportedly stolen in Nyala,
underscoring that the GOS is not always aware of or behind a
carjacking. End Note.)

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5. (SBU) UN Security in El Fasher believes that SLM/Unity has a
"transportation chain" of areas under its control in southeast
Darfur and moving in a northwesterly direction toward the Chad and
Libyan borders (near the following towns/villages: Sigeir Um Sa,
Shaqq Al Gama, Tarny North, Disc, Onyo.) The majority of stolen
vehicles are eventually transported and sold in Chad and Libya, as
"the rebels are aware of international perception, and they do not
want to earn the reputation as a gang of robbers," stated one UN
Security source. This constitutes a change, noted this contact, as
"several years ago almost all of the vehicles that were looted were
not sold, but used by the rebel movements." This contact noted that
he has not been able to verify rumors that there is a
rebel-controlled "chop shop" outside of Sarif Umra near the border
with North and West Darfur.

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6. (SBU) A WFP Security Officer based in Nyala stated that the

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situation for carjacking in Nyala has grown from "bad to worse" in
the last three years. According to him, in the early stages of the
conflict, bandits targeted Sudanese civilians and targets of
opportunity. Now, robbers have become more discriminating and
sophisticated, "graduating from petty theft and looking for good
durable vehicles that expatriates drive." The humanitarian
community has responded by taking fewer trips out of the cities and
renting vehicles for these longer excursions. Some INGOs, such as
World Vision, have even locked up their Landcruisers, favoring local
transportation within Darfur's cities. Some ambitious robbers have
recognized this change and are now attempting to break into INGO
compounds to steal vehicles. In response, some INGOs are considering
sending their "mothballed" non-rented Landcruisers back to Khartoum
or other parts of Sudan to remove the temptation and put the assets
to use elsewhere under safer conditions.

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7. (SBU) WFP contacts in Nyala stated that the rate of
"truck-jackings" has risen in 2008. According to these contacts,
three of WFP's trucks have already been stolen in September (trucks
and drivers were recovered), and two in August are still missing
along with their drivers. Sources stated that rebels often steal
trucks after they have been unloaded, as they are lighter and more
maneuverable. WFP added that abductions associated with the
carjackings are very concerning, especially as there are over 40
commercially-contracted drivers still missing. WFP contacts stated
that approximately thirty of their drivers subcontracted from
another company recently went on strike, demanding better
compensation given this increased threat. WFP sources stated that
some of WFP's trucks have been targeted because of the goods that
they carry. Hijackers have intentionally targeted trucks carrying
high-value and resale cargo such as sugar, but have left behind
lower-value cargo such as sorghum.

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8. (SBU) WFP contacts stated that GoS protection for WFP convoys
is more effective than none at all, but that the GoS will only
provide protection for massive convoys of 500 to 700 trucks. (Note:
The GoS has previously stated that the minimum number of cars
required for convoy protection would be 100, but WFP contacts
repeatedly discussed much higher convoy numbers, which may have more
to do with the limited number of escort rotations provided by the
GoS rather than a set, minimum vehicle requirement. End Note.)
According to WFP contacts, these gigantic convoys have spread out
over as many as 40 kilometers and take an incredible effort to
coordinate. WFP says that trucks have waited for weeks in locations
outside of Darfur to join one of these large convoys. This is
particularly problematic on the dangerous Nyala-Geneina route, where
escorts may only travel 2 times per month. Additionally, as South
Darfur has established a requirement that all commercial trucks must
travel with police escorts, there are reports of convoys traveling
from West and North Darfur and being required to stop at the South
Darfur border to wait for protection. "Although the convoys are
effective, we simply cannot wait for the GoS to respond to our
requests," noted WFP contacts. WFP also stated that when trucks
break down in the convoy, they are left behind and inevitably
hijacked. (Note: Under current escort operations, WFP is managing
to get in only a fraction of the commodities required on a monthly
basis, usually around just 60 percent of the necessary food
dispatches, which has resulted in several months of reduced rations
for IDPs and other conflict-affected populations. End Note.)

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9. (SBU) GPS tracking systems have had mixed success in assisting
vehicle recovery efforts, as many hijackers have immediately
dismantled their systems after stealing the vehicles. On the rare
occasion when the systems have not been promptly dismantled, this
technology has provided information about the final destination of
some of the trucks. Limited data from tracking systems has revealed
that rebel-held East Jebel Marra, Sudan; Bahai, Chad; and Libya are
all common destinations for stolen vehicles.

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10. (SBU) Another UN Security officer told poloff on September 16
that there is an extensive carjacking network throughout all of
Darfur. "People have all the time in the world on their hands, and
can sit outside of any office or base and inform their colleagues in
the field when a convoy leaves," noted this officer. Continuing,
this officer described Sudanese as incredibly communicative and
curious people who are constantly passing information, both with
good and bad intentions.

KHARTOUM 00001438 003 OF 004

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11. (SBU) World Vision's Muhammad claimed that carjacking inside
Darfur's towns and cities starts as a purely commercial activity.
Although this criminal activity may have ties to rebel movements,
those involved in the initial hijacking "are only in it for the
money." Within the city, it is common for those involved to use tuk
tuks (motorized tricycles) for their initial attack. Once the car
is taken, occasionally a Landcruiser is brought to a "chop shop" in
the city where it is dismantled and sold for parts. More likely,
according to Muhammad, the car is taken at least ten kilometers
outside of town to a designated meeting place where the criminal
sells the car. According to Muhammad, the carjacker is occasionally
paid with a motorcycle for return to the city. Outside of Nyala,
Muhammad claimed that there are two major locations where robbers
bring cars before transportation to Chad or Libya or delivery to
rebel controlled areas. According to Muhammad, SLM/MM controls a
stolen vehicle depot in Khorabeche, while a semi-autonomous Arab
militia group (led by Janjaweed warlord Hamati or one of his
commanders who have splintered from his group) controls another
depot in Yara, approximately 50 kilometers west of Nyala. Muhammad
claimed that he spoke to one Sudanese man whose car was hijacked.
This individual reportedly followed his attackers all the way to
Yara in another car, and then re-purchased his vehicle for
approximately 5,000 USD.

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12. (SBU) Muhammad stated that checkpoints outside of Darfur's
cities have not cut down on the number of carjackings for two major
reasons. Police and other paramilitary forces managing the
checkpoints are corrupt and easily bribed. Moreover, Landcruisers
can easily turn off onto unpaved tracks and bypass checkpoints or
paved roads altogether.

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13. (SBU) According to UN Security in Nyala, South Darfur ranks
highest in carjackings in all three states. 85 vehicles have already
been hijacked in 2008 (approximately 20 UN, 30 contractors, and 30
INGO vehicles). Despite a summer lull in carjackings, this activity
is again on the rise with eight incidents this month in South
Darfur. UN Security noted that GoS deployment to South Darfur has
improved security in some areas, as exemplified by the Nyala-Ed
Daien road. UN Security also stated that planned GoS deployment to
the Menawashi has been delayed.

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14. (SBU) According to UNAMID Civil Affair's Ali Hassan, a
high-level delegation from UNAMID addressed the issue of carjackings
with senior GoS officials including Nafie Ali Nafie and Salah Gosh
on September 10. (Note: Hassan scoffed at the GoS's justification
of staging widespread attacks in order to clean up the banditry and
carjacking in North Darfur. End Note.) Following this meeting and
further complaints from Hassan at the state-level, a committee
composed of NISS, Police, and UNAMID was formed in South Darfur to
combat hijackings. In their first meeting on September 16, GoS
officials pledged to increase patrols outside UNAMID and INGO
residential areas, particularly during the early evening. NISS and
the police will also dispatch plain-clothes police and agents to
collect intelligence about the carjacking trade. Hasssan was
hopeful that these procedures will make a positive difference in
reducing carjackings, specifically noting the importance of better
intelligence on hijackings. For its part, UNAMID pledged to quickly
inform the GoS of security incidents, provide better security
information to its staff, and consider moving to compound housing in
Nyala closer to work locations.

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15. (SBU) Contacts were quick to lump car and truck hijacking in
the same category, but carjacking within cities should be
differentiated from robberies conducted on Darfur's long and
isolated roads. Given the heavy military and police presence in
Darfur's three major cities, there is no reason that the number of
incidents cannot be significantly reduced if there is a good faith
effort by the GoS and improved coordination between UNAMID, INGOs,
and the GoS. Committees (such as the one already in South Darfur)
should be established at the state level in North and West Darfur.
Another committee for all three states should also be formed for
standardizing convoy protection, sharing intelligence, and improving
overall coordination. Other creative options should be considered
such as: using new (and less easily dismantled) tracking and

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beaconing devices, though the GoS may resist allowing the use of
such equipment; marking vehicles with permanent and distinct
identification and ownership information; painting cars with
distinct colors and patterns for use only within cities (as was done
in Liberia and other conflict areas); stronger border monitoring,
especially outside of El-Geneina. We will continue to stress the
importance of this issue to GoS, rebel, and UNAMID contacts and work
to combat this illegal trade that feeds off Darfur's misery.

16. (SBU) Chiefs of Missions from donor countries (US, Canada, UK,
France, Italy, Norway, Netherlands, Germany, Switzerland, and EU)
met on September 22 to discuss this phenomenon and agreed on the
need to gather more information, identify criminal networks, and
find creative ways to provide disincentives for this hijacking. COMs
were also conscious that INGOs and the UN are very concerned that no
action be taken that makes a bad situation even worse.

17. (SBU) Embassy Khartoum welcomes any additional light Embassies
Ndjamena and Tripoli can shed on this subject.


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