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Cablegate: C-130 Departure Incident at El Fasher Airport

VZCZCXYZ0000
PP RUEHWEB

DE RUEHKH #2756 3330917
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 290917Z NOV 06 ZDK
FM AMEMBASSY KHARTOUM
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 5410
RHMFISS/CJTF HOA PRIORITY

UNCLAS KHARTOUM 002756

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

FOR AF/AS J FRAZER, AF/SPG L LANDIS, AND AF/RSA

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREL MOPS PINR PINS EAIR US SU
SUBJECT: C-130 DEPARTURE INCIDENT AT EL FASHER AIRPORT

Ref: 18 Nov 06 Telcons - (Landis)- (Powers)

1. Combined Joint Task Force Horn of Africa (CJTF-HOA) supports a
small detachment of officers serving as advisors to the African
Union Mission in Sudan (AMIS) in El Fasher. On November 28, a
CJTF-HOA HC-130, call sign PAT 332, landed in El Fashir, Darfur, at
approximately 1450, on a scheduled mission to pick up personal gear
belonging to members of the CJTF AMIS advisory detachment that had
recently departed.

2. As Sudan's only airports of entry are Khartoum and Port Sudan,
the HC-130 aircraft was scheduled to fly from Djibouti to Khartoum,
proceed to El Fasher to pick up the cargo, and then refuel in
Khartoum before the return leg to Djibouti. This flight was
scheduled over a month ago, and all of the necessary overflight and
landing clearances were requested (Diplomatic Note 663 of 26 October
2006) and received (CAA Clearance # CA/7/A7/M/2/2/2853).

3. The first two legs of the mission proceeded according to plan.
A military representative met the aircraft in El Fasher and loaded
the cargo. As the HC-130 was at the end of the runway preparing to
depart, Sudanese air traffic controllers required it to return to
the ramp area and shut down its engines. Evidently, military
intelligence personnel were disturbed by the presence of a
Forward-Looking Infrared (FLIR) Turret on the nose of the aircraft,
believing that the crew was recording photographs of Sudanese
facilities and activities. The officials did not believe the
aircrew's assurance that there was no recording taking place, and
wanted access to the aircraft, which the crew would not permit.

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4. A standoff ensued while Embassy personnel tried to contact
officials in Khartoum to resolve the situation. At El Fasher,
Sudanese officials searched the outgoing cargo and then insisted
that the crew depart the aircraft for the night because the airport
was closed. The crew again refused, and the two sides were at an
impasse. After some time passed, the military representative was
taken to see the Colonel in charge of airport security, and the
Colonel agreed to clear the aircraft for departure pending payment
of a landing fee. The plane was permitted to continue on to
Khartoum at approx. 2015 without payment of any additional landing
fees.

5. The return leg to Khartoum, refueling, and departure for
Djibouti all proceeded without further incident.

HUME

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