Sudan refuses to disband militia blamed for ethnic cleansing

Monday, July 12, 2004

CAIRO Sudan has rebuffed a U.S. demand for the dismantling of the Janjaweed militia and prosecution of its leaders.

Sudanese officials said the regime of President Omar Bashir has relayed a message to the Bush administration that ruled out any step that would harm Janjaweed or its leaders.

The officials said Bashir warned that any step against Janjaweed would renew violence in Darfour and expand armed unrest in Sudan, Middle East Newsline reported.

"Janjaweed is a double-edge sword and could turn against the regime within a minute," a Western diplomat in Khartoum said.

The United States has blamed Janjaweed, supported by the Khartoum regime, for the death of some 30,000 black Sudanese and expulsion of an additional 1.2 million over the last 18 months. The State Department has determined that Sudan's air force provided support that enabled Janjaweed attacks in the western province of Darfour, adjacent to Chad.

In early July, U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell met Sudanese leaders and demanded the elimination of Janjaweed and the prosecution of seven of its leaders. The key Janjaweed leader has been identified as Arab tribal chief Mussa Hillal.

Sudanese opposition sources said the Bashir regime has long discriminated against black Africans, most of them Christians, in Darfour.

The sources said Khartoum recruited Janjaweed to attack insurgency groups in Darfour by promising the Arab militia the right to destroy black African villages and take over the farmland of their residents. The blacks were represented by the Sudan Liberation Army and the Justice and Equality Movement.

The Janjaweed militia , the opposition sources said, have been ardent supporters of former Sudanese parliamentary speaker Hassan Turabi, until 1999 the Islamic ideologue of the Bashri regime. The sources said Turabi was encouraging Janjaweed to resist any pressure by Khartoum to end attacks on the black Christians.

In response to Bashir's refusal to stop Janjaweed, the State Department has quietly launched an independent effort. Officials said diplomats in the U.S. embassy in Khartoum have met Hillal to discuss Janjaweed attacks. Later, Hillal said he denied that the militia was involved in atrocities in Darfour.

On Sunday, militia attacked the town of Al La'at in Darfour and abducted Arab tribal leader Al Sadiq Abbas, the manager of the town's agricultural bank and a local judge.

In Rome, Italian authorities continue to prevent a ship carrying 36 Sudanese refugees from docking in Sicily after sailing the Mediterranean for three weeks.

Copyright 2004 East West Services, Inc.

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