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Cablegate: Darfur Security Update: Fighting Resumes in Jebel Marra

VZCZCXRO3785
OO RUEHGI RUEHMA RUEHROV RUEHTRO
DE RUEHKH #0254/01 0461424
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O R 151421Z FEB 10
FM AMEMBASSY KHARTOUM
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 0198
INFO DARFUR COLLECTIVE
IGAD COLLECTIVE
UN SECURITY COUNCIL COLLECTIVE
RHMFISS/CJTF HOA

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 KHARTOUM 000254

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

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: MOPS PINR PREL ASEC SU CD
SUBJECT: DARFUR SECURITY UPDATE: FIGHTING RESUMES IN JEBEL MARRA
BETWEEN GOS AND SLA/AW; JEM ATTACKS ON JEBEL MOON

REF: 10 KHARTOUM 102

1. (SBU) Summary: On February 10, intense fighting broke out
between the Government of Sudan (GOS) and Sudan Liberation
Army/Abdul Wahid (SLA/AW) rebels in East Jebel Marra, according to
UN and humanitarian sources. The scope of casualties and civilian
displacement remains unknown, though the United Nations-African
Union Mission in Darfur (UNAMID) will attempt to undertake a
previously-planned mission to the area during the week of February
14. Meanwhile in West Darfur, the Justice and Equality Movement
(JEM) has been launching attacks on SLA/AW positions in the Jebel
Moon area since January 28, causing mass displacement of civilians
from nearby villages. GOS aircraft have also been observed
conducting aerial bombardment in the area targeting JEM movement.
In South Darfur, Arab militiamen attacked Hajjar IDP camp near Kass
on February 9 in apparent retaliation for the killing of one of
their own. A UNAMID patrol reported burning and looting in the camp
by Arab militia, though the situation is now calm following GOS
intervention. End Summary.

--------------------------------------------- ----------------------
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FIGHTING BREAKS OUT IN EAST JEBEL MARRA
--------------------------------------------- ----------------------
-----

2. (SBU) On the morning of February 10, humanitarian sources
reported that intense fighting had broken out between SLA/AW and
the GOS in the area of Kidingeer in East Jebel Marra (approximately
40 kilometers southeast of Deribat). The fighting reportedly
expanded to the villages of Leiba (northwest of Kidingeer) and
Fugoli that afternoon, and to the village of Kara on February 11.
(Note: Kidingeer and Leiba are SLA/AW strongholds located at the
base of Jebel Marra at low ground. End Note.) Casualties from
either side remain unknown, though villagers and IDPs from Leiba,
Feina, Dulda and Fugoli reportedly fled northward toward the hills
of Jebel Marra to escape the fighting. Also on February 11, the UN
Humanitarian Air Service (UNHAS) relocated 27 international NGO
staff members from the Gurlambanj and Deribat to Nyala as a result
of the fighting.

3. (SBU) Fighting between the GOS and SLA/AW in Eastern Jebel Marra
reportedly continued on February 12 and 13. On February 14, UNAMID
sources told poloff they received reports (yet to be confirmed)
that SLA/AW claimed to have defeated GOS troops in Kara and pushed
them out of Kidingeer. The status of a planned UNAMID visit to
Deribat in East Jebel Marra during the week of February 14 remains
unclear. It had been previously arranged with the consent of local
SLA/AW commanders, but there is uncertainty if the latter will
remain committed to UNAMID's visit in the wake of the fighting.
(Note: UNAMID has had little to no access to SLA/AW areas in recent
months due to the refusal of SLA/AW to allow UNAMID onto its
territory. End Note.)

--------------------------------------------- ----------
JEM MAKES PUSH FOR JEBEL MOON
--------------------------------------------- ----------

4. (SBU) In West Darfur, JEM forces have been attacking the Jebel
Moon area since January 28, according to UN and rebel sources. On
January 29, a UNAMID patrol in Sector West observed heavy firing
and smoke from the direction of Jebel Moon, near Sileah. The team
spoke with a local GOS military commander, who reported that JEM
and SLA/Minnawi forces had been fighting in the area since January
28. (Note: in a February 6 meeting, former rebel leader Minni
Minnawi told poloff (septel) that JEM has been sporadically
attacking his forces in various locales, including Jebel Moon,
since January 16. End Note.)

5. (SBU) On February 3, emboff spoke to Ibrahim Ahmed Nasir, an
SLA/AW Commander in Jebel Moon, who affirmed that JEM had been
attacking his forces in the Jebel Moon area since January 28.
(Note: Historically a hotbed of rebel activity, the Jebel Moon area
has hosted numerous rebel factions over the years. JEM maintained a
base in Jebel Moon up until 2007, until it was pushed out by a GOS
offensive. SLA/AW is known to have a longtime presence in the area,
albeit a very small one. End note.) Nasir stated that JEM had
launched its assault with a force of over 25 vehicles and had used
106mm mortars, 140mm artillery shells and 120mm rocket launchers in
the attacks. He said he had refused to surrender despite numerous
calls from JEM to do so. Nasir also said that what he claimed was

KHARTOUM 00000254 002 OF 002


JEM's aggression had resulted in mass displacement and several
civilian casualties.

6. (SBU) A UNAMID mission to nearby Sileah on February 6 spoke to
local authorities and INGO representatives, who reported that
nearly 4000 villagers were displaced as a result of the fighting
between JEM and SLA/AW, which also resulted in the death of four
civilians. It was also reported that JEM was vandalizing water
installations as collective punishment for those who refused to
enlist in the movement, and had arrested youth who resisted being
recruited. A follow-on UNAMID patrol to Sileah on February 9 was
stopped by suspected JEM fighters and prevented from proceeding
when it was approximately six kilometers from the town.

7. UNAMID sources told poloff that they had also observed regular
flyovers of Jebel Moon by GOS aircraft conducting reconnaissance
and also engaged in sporadic bombing of JEM movement positions.
While it is possible the GOS military could intervene and attempt
to take control of Jebel Moon, UNAMID sources believed it was more
likely that the GOS would wait to take action until after SLA/AW
and JEM had become sufficiently weakened from fighting with each
other.

--------------------------------------------- ----------------------
---------------------------------
KILLING RESULTS IN MILITIA ATTACK ON KASS AREA IDP CAMP
--------------------------------------------- ----------------------
---------------------------------

8. (SBU) On the evening of February 8, a uniformed Arab militiaman
was shot dead by an unknown perpetrator, who stole his AK-47 rifle
and allegedly fled towards Hajjar IDP camp in Kass, according to
UNDSS sources. The following day armed relatives of the deceased,
reportedly from the Taalba tribe, retaliated by attacking the camp.
They burned and looted the camp marketplace until GOS security
forces intervened. UNDSS reports that many people were arrested by
GOS police, and that calm has been restored. A South Darfur State
Security Committee led by the Wali convened shortly thereafter and
blood money was paid to the deceased's family, further calming the
situation.

9. (SBU) Comment: The clashes in East Jebel Marra resurrect fears
that the GOS may seek to consolidate territorial gains it has made
over the past several months by enacting its long-rumored
"five-point" plan for capturing the rebel-held mountain stronghold.
With SLA/AW forces in Jebel Marra logistically-strained,
internally-divided and weakened by violent infighting (reftel), the
GOS military command may be seeking to exploit the situation by
gaining a foothold in the area, starting with the low ground bases
such as Kidingeer. While the mountainous terrain is no doubt
forbidding, various unpaved roads do afford access in and out of
the region. Due to the scarcity of information, however, it is
unclear whether the fighting is indeed part of a coordinated
air-ground attack aimed at taking Jebel Marra. JEM meanwhile
continues to be a destabilizing force inside Darfur, and its quest
to occupy and hold territory inside Sudan will likely continue to
result in violence.
WHITEHEAD

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