U.S. forces return to Sudan

Friday, May 23, 2003

The U.S. military has sent its first force into Sudan since 1993.

U.S. officials said a force from the new Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa arrived in Khartoum last week. The force represented a logistics support mission and included a C-130 transport aircraft, Middle East Newsline reported.

U.S. Army Col. Dennis Giddens, a defense liaison officer in Sudan, said this was the first appearance of U.S. troops in Sudan in a decade. The United States attacked Sudan in 1998 after it was accused of harboring Al Qaida insurgents who bombed the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania.

U.S. officials said the arrival of the military task force in Sudan marked a significant improvement in relations between Khartoum and Washington. They said Sudan has contributed significantly to the U.S.-led war against Al Qaida, including intelligence exchange and the extradition of suspects.

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"Landing here today is symbolic because what pushed our two countries apart 10 years ago is now pulling us together and that is the war against terrorism," Giddens said.

The State Department said Sudan continues to harbor some groups on the list of terrorist organizations. They include Hamas and Islamic Jihad.

Military relations between Khartoum and Washington were improved in 2002. At the time, the Sudanese government invited the Defense Department to open a U.S. military liasion office in Khartoum. In January 2002, Washington helped achieve a ceasefire between the Khartoum regime and the Sudanese People's Liberation Army.

Sudan still remains on a list of State Department terrorist sponsors. On Thursday, the State Department imposed sanctions on seven Sudanese companies and individuals in connection with the financing of groups deemed as terrorist.

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