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Cablegate: Jem Acknowledges Attack On Unamid Helicopter but Shifts

VZCZCXRO0490
OO RUEHGI RUEHMA RUEHROV
DE RUEHKH #1230/01 2271344
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 141344Z AUG 08
FM AMEMBASSY KHARTOUM
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 1605
INFO RUCNFUR/DARFUR COLLECTIVE
RUCNIAD/IGAD COLLECTIVE
RHMFISS/CJTF HOA

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 KHARTOUM 001230

DEPT FOR AF/SPG, A/S FRAZER, SE WILLIAMSON
NSC FOR BPITTMAN AND CHUDSON
ADDIS ABABA FOR USAU
DEPT PLS PASS USAID FOR AFR/SUDAN

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: ASEC PGOV PREL KPKO SOCI AU UNSC SU
SUBJECT: JEM ACKNOWLEDGES ATTACK ON UNAMID HELICOPTER BUT SHIFTS
BLAME

1. (SBU) SUMMARY: On August 11, JEM fighters on Jebel Moon fired on
a UNAMID helicopter which they thought was a GoS aircraft. JEM
later released a press statement acknowledging its error, but both
in this statement and in a contact with the field commander
responsible for the unit, JEM attempted to shift blame. A
UNAMID-JEM meeting to discuss the event is scheduled for March 16.
END SUMMARY.

JEM FIRES ON UNAMID HELICOPTER
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
2. (SBU) On August 11, at approximately 12:30 local time, a UNAMID
MI8 helicopter carrying 5 people came under fire while traveling
from EL Geneina to Kulbus. According to UN reports, the helicopter
was flying at 6500 feet when the pilot heard shots "from a heavy
weapon" directed at the aircraft. The helicopter returned to El
Geneina and landed safely at 12:50. UN contacts contacted JEM
commanders in the area who admitted that they fired on a white
helicopter, believing it to be a GoS aircraft.


PRESS STATEMENT
- - - - - - - - - -
3. (SBU) Late on August 11, JEM released a press statement in
Arabic from Ahmed Hussein, JEM's spokesman currently visiting the
U.S. The statement reports that JEM seriously regrets shooting at
the UNAMID helicopter labeling it as an "unintentional mistake that
fortunately did not lead to any loss of life." The statement added
that JEM fighters believed that the helicopter "belonged to the
regime of Khartoum, as they always bring their aircraft and fire at
peaceful villages and civilians." The statement argues that UNAMID
did not inform JEM of its flight plans, nor receive permission from
JEM for the travel. "Any plane that flys over JEM-controlled areas
without permission or advance warning, will be vulnerable to
attack," notes the statement. It adds that JEM has repeatedly told
the UN-AU hybrid forces in writing and verbally the importance of
having a channel of communication between the two parties, so that
such mistakes can be avoided. According to the statement, JEM
supports UNAMID and its desire to protect civilians. Finally, the
statement condemns the regime in Khartoum, "which creates this tense
atmosphere in Darfur, and uses hired mercenary crews." It also
alleges that the GOS paints its planes the same color as the UN's
aircraft, and puts the same symbols on them, as an intentional
maneuver to confuse the rebels. The statement ends saying that
there should be a military no-fly zone in Darfur.

FIELD COMMANDER SHIFTS BLAME
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
4. (SBU) On August 14, JEM's Deputy Field Commander, Suliman
Sandal (located in Jebel Moon) told poloff via satellite phone that
his forces did accidentally fire on a UNAMID aircraft on August 11
with an anti-aircraft gun. (Sandal would not disclose what exact
type of weapon was used in the attack.) Sandal blamed the mistake
on poor coordination from UNAMID, an absence of JEM representatives
at UNAMID, and SAF's continued use of similar models, colors, and
markings of UNAMID aircraft. Sandal stated that on August 16, a
group of senior UNAMID leaders will travel to an undisclosed
location to discuss the incident with JEM.

"SAF HAD BOMBED JEM POSITIONS THREE TIMES THIS WEEK"
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
5. (SBU) Sandal said SAF had bombed and attacked rebel-held Jebel
Moon three times in the last week using Antonovs and helicopters,
and that they anticipated further attacks the day of the incident.
Sandal stressed that although he welcomes UNAMID's presence, JEM is
not a signatory to the DPA, and he added it is important for UNAMID
to recognize there is an ongoing war with the GoS. He stated that
UNAMID should "wake up" to this and carefully coordinate its travel
with JEM field commanders.

GoS INTERESTED IN WAR, NOT NEGOTIATIONS
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
6. (SBU) According to Sandal, the GoS has intensified its military
attacks on JEM rebel positions, and JEM "is preparing ourselves for
war, as the government is preparing itself." He called President
Bashir's Darfur initiative "just a maneuver following the ICC
proceedings." Sandal stated that Bashir's focus should not be on
outreach to Darfuri civil society, but to the rebel movements, as
"Peace should be made between the warring parties, not the people
sitting in the town."

JEM AND GOS ARE THE ONLY PLAYERS, SAYS COMMANDER
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
7. (SBU) Sandal added that "JEM is the only movement that has
taken the government on in a direct fight." Sandal called the

KHARTOUM 00001230 002 OF 002


government's outreach "propaganda," saying "The government's desire
is not peace but to continue war and completely destroy JEM."
Sandal claimed that despite the rainy season, the GoS has been
training and mobilizing its soldiers, janjaweed, and former rebel
movements now aligned with the government. Sandal said that
movements such as SLA/Free Will and the Peace Wing (movements who
entered the DPA through signing a declaration of commitment (DOC))
have now been incorporated into the government's military apparatus
(this is something that the GOS freely admits) and are attacking JEM
positions. Sandal ended the conversation reiterating JEM's regret
over the incident and its promise to work closely with UNAMID to
resolve the matter.

COMMENT
- - - -
8. (SBU) Although JEM has accepted responsibility for the attack,
it has attempted to shift the blame for this egregious violation.
This and Sandal's attempt to portray the Darfur conflict as a matter
best left between the GoS and JEM are both unacceptable but not
surprising considering that the Khartoum regime and JEM have the
same origin in Sudan's Islamist movement. Post will follow up with
JEM and UNAMID following their June 14 meeting. END COMMMENT.

FERNANDEZ

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