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Cablegate: Jem Spokesman Says Rumors of Attack Are Gos "Smokescreen"

VZCZCXRO7509
OO RUEHBC RUEHDE RUEHGI RUEHKUK RUEHMA RUEHROV
DE RUEHKH #1793/01 3511358
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 161358Z DEC 08
FM AMEMBASSY KHARTOUM
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 2544
INFO RUCNFUR/DARFUR COLLECTIVE
RUEHEE/ARAB LEAGUE COLLECTIVE
RUCNIAD/IGAD COLLECTIVE
RHMFISS/CJTF HOA

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 KHARTOUM 001793

DEPT FOR AF A/S FRAZER, SE WILLIAMSON, AF/SPG, AF/E
NSC FOR PITTMAN AND HUDSON
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 SPOKESMAN SAYS RUMORS OF ATTACK ARE GOS "SMOKESCREEN"

REFS: A) KHARTOUM 1790
B) KHARTOUM 1771

1. (SBU) Summary: On December 11-12, UNAMID sources told poloff they
had received unconfirmed reports from the GOS that a large column of
JEM vehicles had been observed crossing Chad border into Sudan.
However, they were unclear whether this alleged mobilization
signified preparation for new attacks within Sudanese territory, or
simply a regular troop movement within JEM-controlled areas, as
claimed by rival rebel commanders. UNDSS sources were also unable to
confirm or deny details of a JEM mobilization or rumors of an
attack. Meanwhile, JEM spokesman Ahmed Hussein denied any knowledge
of the movement's military affairs. Nevertheless, he dismissed these
reports as nothing more than GOS "fear-mongering", and chastised
UNAMID for accepting them blindly. End Summary.

2. (SBU) On December 11, UNAMID Planning Chief Noddy Stafford told
poloff that GOS sources reported a column of approx. 300 vehicles
with military personnel and equipment had been observed crossing
Chad border into Sudan (ref A). Two movements had been seen. The
first one between 1821 hrs and 1848 hrs on December 11 at Mado area
(N 26:15'"15" E 14:37'25"), about 75 km NE of Mellit. The second
column was observed at 2023 hrs at location (N24:34'47" E
16:04'02"), approx 220 km N of Kutum. All UNAMID sectors have been
told to exercise maximum vigilance and attempt to confirm these
reports through sources and patrols, he said.

3. (SBU) On December 12 Stafford told poloff that SLA/AW and
SLA/Unity Commanders in Birmaza and Kutum areas told UNAMID
officials that no JEM forces had recently crossed the northern
border into Darfur. Rather, the reported mobilization constituted a
regular movement of troops within JEM-controlled areas, they said.
Additional information received by UNAMID indicated that on December
12, 100 JEM vehicles were spotted around Birmaza in North Darfur,
though SLA/AW and SLA/Unity commanders in the area denied having any
knowledge of this. Stafford noted that the mission of the JEM
contingent had yet to be ascertained, but it was assumed that they
were preparing to launch attacks within Sudanese territory, probably
in Kordofan or El Fasher. (Note: Two days later on December 14,
Stafford told poloff that he had no new information to communicate.
End Note.) On December 15, the UNDSS Duty Officer told poloff that
while rumors of a possible, imminent JEM attack were rife, UNDSS had
been unable to confirm or deny them.

4. (SBU) In a conversation with poloff on December 15, JEM Spokesman
Ahmed Hussein denied any knowledge of the movement's military
affairs, but characterized the rumors as a "smokescreen" put forth
by the GOS. "They're just seeking to shift the attention of the
Sudanese people and the international community away from their own
abuses and internal struggles," he said. "It's their usual
propaganda." He expressed disappointment that such rumors receive
credence from UNAMID, even though they have been proven false in the
past. Hussein also accused the government of attempting to "create
chaos" in Darfur, and stated that it was behind the recent tribal
clashes between the Fallata and Habaniya in South Darfur (ref A).

5. (SBU) Alleged movements of JEM forces have not restricted the
World Food Program's (WFP) distribution of humanitarian food aid in
Darfur, according to security officers with WFP. "Relatively
speaking, the situation is somewhat normal," Philip Tyrell, WFP
security coordinator in Nyala, told poloff. General UN restrictions
on movement have caused the WFP to minimize non-essential activity,
but Tyrell noted that this has not caused any specific operational
cutbacks. Kenneth Nichols, WFP security officer in El Geneina, told
poloff that the WFP has increased the level at which it monitors the
potential for instability in West Darfur, but WFP has already
completed its December distribution operations there. Nichols said
he had seen nothing yet to indicate that West Darfur will become
more unstable than it already is come January 2009.

6. (SBU) Comment: Rumors of a large JEM column of vehicles (on the
scale described by the GOS) in El Fasher or Kordofan remain
unsubstantiated, though post will continue to monitor the situation
closely. Hussein's claim to have no knowledge of JEM's movements on
the ground is not implausible, as many JEM political officials are
left in the dark on military matters. But his claim that the
government is solely behind the rumors of a JEM attack is not
totally honest. JEM recently released several new videos on its
website showcasing its military strength and threatening new action
against the regime (ref B). It is possible that JEM is seeking to
flex its muscles before potential peace talks in Qatar, or that the
GOS is using the alleged troop movements as a pretext for a
potential offensive against JEM. Either way, the tense atmosphere
does not bode well for the illusory Darfur ceasefire.

KHARTOUM 00001793 002.2 OF 002

ASQUINO

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