May 12, 2008 (KHARTOUM) — The bloody clashes that erupted in the Sudanese capital this weekend have raised question about how the rebels were able to infiltrate the capital despite the advance knowledge by authorities of their route.
Last Thursday the Sudanese army issued statement late Thursday saying that it received information on “preparations made by rebel Khalil Ibrahim to conduct sabotage attempt and a publicity stunt through infiltrating the capital and other towns”.
But by Saturday the imminent attack turned into a reality and Darfur rebels and took everyone by surprise by striking into the capital.
The Sudanese presidential adviser Mustafa Ismail said in press statements that rebels from Justice and Equality movements were intercepted “since they came from Chad and were intentionally drawn” to trap them.
But political analyst Diaa Al-Deen Bilal from the daily Al-Rayaam speaking to Sudan Tribune dismissed statements by Ismail on the tactic meant to trap JEM fighters.
“This tactic they are talking about is unheard of in military history. To let your enemy to move into the heart of your capital and expose your strategic installations” he said.
“It appears that there were security loopholes due to the tactics deployed by JEM and the geographical nature of the capital” he added.
In the aftermath of the attack, Sudanese authorities gave the impression that they were able to repel the attack with little or no casualties.
But today they provided the first glimpse of the heavy toll caused by the fighting saying 400 rebels were killed and 100 members of Sudanese security forces as well as deaths among civilians.
It was a shock to the residents of Khartoum and a blow to a government known to hold a firm grip on security. Two years ago the expelled UN Secretary General special representative to Sudan speaking to reporters in New York described the government as a “strong” one and rejected notion that it is a failed state despite a raging war in Darfur.
The BBC reporter in Khartoum Amber Henshaw said the May 10th assault burst the capital’s “false of safety” after long enjoying a reputation as the safest city in Africa.
Some residents of Khartoum speaking to Sudan Tribune blamed spy chief Salah Gosh for mishandling the rebel threat.
“So if they already knew that rebels were advancing why did they not stop them? They were willing to put our lives at risk? This could have been a blood bath” said Khalid who asked that only his first name be used.
Not only civilians were at risk but also government officials. The daily Al-Sharq Al-Awsat from London quoted unidentified Sudanese officials as saying that government instructed “constitutional” members of the National Congress Party (NCP) to go into hiding.
Bilal said that Sudanese press calling for an investigation into the “negligence” by security forces is the biggest indicator that the government’s response to initial intelligence fell short of what was expected.
The Sudanese columnist said that the government made a huge political gain after repelling the rebels but suggested that the incidents will have a negative impact on the booming economy saying it may scare some investors away.
But for now the big question is the whereabouts of JEM leader Khalil Ibrahim. The Sudanese government seems determined to nab him especially after broadcasting his photo on TV and putting a $125,000 bounty on him.
The Sudanese people have been intensely speculating in the last couple of days as to whether Ibrahim was arrested, killed or able to escape. A query almost similar to “Who killed JR?” on the 80’s highly popular soap opera ‘Dallas’.
For now it remains to be seen if there will be any major shakeup in security structure following Saturday’s unprecedented attack.