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Cablegate: Tensions Flare in Jebel Marra As Key Rebel Commander Killed

VZCZCXRO5558
OO RUEHROV RUEHTRO
DE RUEHKH #0064/01 0121056
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O R 121055Z JAN 10
FM AMEMBASSY KHARTOUM
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 0003
INFO IGAD COLLECTIVE
UN SECURITY COUNCIL COLLECTIVE
RHMFISS/CJTF HOA

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 KHARTOUM 000064

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS
NSC FOR MGAVIN, LETIM
DEPT PLS PASS USAID FOR AFR/SUDAN
ADDIS ABABA ALSO FOR USAU

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PHUM PINR MOPS SU
SUBJECT: TENSIONS FLARE IN JEBEL MARRA AS KEY REBEL COMMANDER KILLED
IN INFIGHTING

REF: KHARTOUM 1357

1. (SBU) Summary: The internal struggle within the Sudan Liberation
Army/Abdul Wahid (SLA/AW) rebel faction reignited on January 5,
when a prominent commander was killed in an ambush, according to UN
and rebel sources. Abdalla Bakr, who had actively advanced the Doha
rebel unification process supported by U.S. Special Envoy to Sudan
(SE) Scott Gration, was reportedly killed by other members of
SLA/AW who remain faithful to the Paris-based leader. Meanwhile in
West Darfur, a local Government of Sudan (GOS) military commander
told a United Nations-African Union Mission in Darfur (UNAMID)
investigative patrol that GOS forces had clashed with fighters from
the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) near Sileah on January 6-8.
Neither side reported casualties. End Summary.

-----------------------------------------

PROMINENT COMMANDER KILLED IN JEBEL MARRA

-----------------------------------------

2. (SBU) According to rebel and UN sources, on January 5 SLA/AW
Commander Abdalla Bakr and 25 soldiers had traveled to the village
of Boldon (about 5 km from Golul) where they arrested SLA/AW Chief
of Military Intelligence Younis Desoung at the order of SLA/AW
General Commander Gaddura. (Note: Younis, a relative of Abdul
Wahid, is said to oppose the Doha rebel unification process
supported by SE Gration. Tensions have flared within SLA/AW between
those who favor rebel unification efforts and greater engagement
with the international community, and those who oppose them. End
Note.)

3. (SBU) On the way back from Boldon, Bakr and his soldiers were
reportedly ambushed in the vicinity of Golul (about 15 km east of
Nertiti), West Darfur. Abdalla Bakr was killed in the ambush. One
of the attackers was also killed in action while another, along
with Younis, managed to escape. Relatives of Abdul Wahid are
believed to be responsible for the killing, according to SLA/AW
Commander Osman Tawilla. (Note: This was apparently the second
attempt on Bakr's life in recent weeks; in late December he was
unsuccessfully ambushed in Boldon by an SLA/AW commander named
Dugosh, who is now reportedly detained by the pro-unification
group. Bakr was also abducted by persons loyal to Abdul Wahid in
late November (reftel) and subsequently released. End Note.)
According to UN sources, tensions in the region are high and the
security situation remains unpredictable.

-----------------------------------

JEM CLASHES WITH GOS IN WEST DARFUR

-----------------------------------

4. (SBU) On January 9, UNAMID conducted a patrol to the town of
Sileah (about 25 km from the Chad-Sudan border) to investigate
media reports, attributed to JEM, that GOS aircraft had dropped
bombs in the area. According to UNAMID, a local sheikh told the
patrol that on January 2, GOS aircraft dropped bombs near Umdaraba
village, about 17 km from Sileah town, for unknown reasons. The
patrol also met with the local GOS commander, who stated that on
January 2 JEM forces were spotted moving towards Sileah town and
were disrupted by GOS aircraft. The GOS commander further stated
that on January 6, JEM forces were seen moving along Aresa Jebel
Mountain (7 km from Sileah) and upon spotting the movement, GOS
military forces launched an attack. Clashes continued on January 8
when JEM forces advanced towards a GOS military barracks in Sileah,
he said, and JEM's movement was halted. No casualties were reported
by either side, according to UNAMID.

5. (SBU) Comment: The killing of Abdalla Bakr will likely deepen

KHARTOUM 00000064 002 OF 002


divisions within the SLA/AW. If Abdul Wahid loyalists lose military
influence in Jebel Marra, the Paris-based leader may face
increasing pressure to join the Doha talks, set to start on January
24. On the other hand, the death of Abdalla Bakr weakens the hand
of the pro-unification group led by SLA/AW General Commander
Gaddura, further compounded by the continued detainment of his
Chief of Staff Yousif Ahmed Yousif (known as Karjakola) by JEM
forces in Chad. The presence of JEM troops in West Darfur,
meanwhile, could indicate the rebel movement is slowly being pushed
out of Chad, a confidence-building measure in the nascent
Chad-Sudan rapprochement. (Alternatively, the mobilization could be
seen as attempt to gain territory and thus leverage in advance of
planned peace talks in Doha on January 24). Either way, JEM appears
to be growing weaker; in addition to suffering heavy losses from
May 2009 fighting in Dar Zaghawa, JEM is said to be struggling to
retain the loyalty of various former SLA commanders who joined it
following the April 2009 defection of Suleiman Jamous from
SLA/Unity.
WHITEHEAD

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