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Sudanese army say rebels behind UNAMID reports on Hashaba clashes

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November 21, 2012 (KHARTOUM) — Sudanese army accused the African Union United Nations Missions in Darfur (UNAMID) of forging reports based on inaccurate information provided by Darfur rebels alleging that its troops participated in the clashes of Hashaba, in North Darfur State in September.

Hashaba North, 56 kilometres northeast of Kutum, was the theatre of fighting between a pro-government militia and rebels belonging to the Sudan Liberation Movement –Minni Minnawi (SLM-MM) on 25 September. Witnesses from the region reported that over seventy civilians were killed.

Also, a UNAMID convoy heading to the site of fighting on 17 October was ambushed by unknown gunmen, at 10 kilometers from Hashaba. The attack resulted in the death of a peacekeeper and injured three others.

Al-Sawarmi Khaled, Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) spokesperson issued Tuesday a long statement where he accused the hybrid mission of allegedly issuing reports saying that the Sudanese government troops took part in the clashes of 25 September between the militiamen and SLM-MM rebels.

The military spokesperson emphasised that the militiamen attacked the Zahgawah rebels who were gathering in the area to avenge old tribal disputes and also to attack the gold mining areas around Hashaba.

He pointed out that important quantities of weapons collected after the militia attack on the rebel fighters prove that the assault targeted armed men and not "civilians" as it was reported. He added that among the 61 rebels killed in the attack there were three commanders.

After blaming the Mission for starting its investigations on the clashes 8 days after its occurrence, he said the peacekeepers met only with rebel commanders Abdallah Adam and Adam Mastor who came to meet the UNAMID investigating team in a village called Um Lahouta.

"Not questioning the Arabs and ignoring their statements showed a clear flaw in the report of peacekeepers who neglected a key player in the conflict," Al-Sawarmi said.

He further said that the UNAMID’s report accused the SAF of backing "the Arabs" in their tribal fighting against the rebels, adding "this is completely unacceptable and challenges the national character of armed forces, which includes all the sons of Sudan with their various ethnic groups."

17 October attack and the US Chargé d’affaires

A peacekeeper was killed and three others injured when a UNAMID convoy was attacked by unidentified armed men at 10 kilometers from Hashaba on 17 October while they were heading to the area to investigate the attack.

Al Sawarmi said the army failed to indentify the gunmen who attacked the UNAMID.

He also criticised the U.S. Charge d’affaires for stating in a communiqué on the death of the peacekeeper that the UNAMID force was travelling to Hashaba to investigate the killing of ’’70 civilians’’ in clashes between the government forces’’ and rebels.

Al-Sawarmi wondered from where the American diplomat got "his credible reports" about the killing of 70 civilians "noting that the report of UNAMID, which was based on statements of the rebels alone cannot under any circumstances be considered a credible [source]."

"UNAMID convoy was en route to Hashaba to investigate the credible reports that at least 70 civilians were killed during a period of intense fighting in this area between Sudanese government forces and rebel groups, which included the use of aerial bombardments by the Government of Sudan," reads the press statement released by US embassy in Khartoum on 18 November.

In addition, he disclosed that Sudan’s defence ministry advised UNAMID against sending a team to Hashaba because of the tribal tensions there but the peacekeepers disregarded the warning.

Darfur’s warring parties often accuse UNAMID of siding with the other party. SAF and the rebel groups accused at different times the peacekeepers of providing assistance and food to each of them.

(ST)

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