Name: Salah Abdallah "Gosh"
Career: Former head of internal security, and then the director of Sudan’s National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS), 2004-2009; Presidential Security Adviser, 2009-2011.
Political Allegiance: National Congress Party (NCP)
Born: Nuri (near Karima), Northern State, Sudan
Salah Gosh Profile
Salah Gosh is a man of many apparent contradictions – although he was the security official who helped Osama Bin Laden establish al-Qa’eda’s infrastructure in Sudan in the 1990s, he later came to be known by the Americans as ‘our man in Sudan’. In spite of being one of the masterminds of the brutal 2003-2004 counterinsurgency in Darfur, he now appears to have been marginalised within the ruling National Congress Party (NCP) for expressing over-conciliatory tendencies.
Early Life and Education
Like many of the Islamists who inspired the ‘Salvation Revolution’ of 1989, he hails from a relatively humble background. He grew up in the village of Nuri near Karima in northern Sudan, although his farmer parents migrated to Port Sudan during his youth. It was at Port Sudan Secondary School that he was named Gosh after his Indian mathematics teacher on account of his aptitude for that subject. His school days also brought about his entry into the Islamic Movement, and he later joined the secretariat of its student wing when he travelled to the University of Khartoum to study engineering.
Introduction to Espionage
This period also provided him with his first experience of spy work, as he established an ‘information bureau’ to provide the movement’s leadership with intelligence on political activity within the university. After graduating in the early 1980s, he helped to direct the ‘security office’ of Hassan al-Turabi’s National Islamic Front (NIF), whilst officially working as a civil engineer with the Dan Fodio Company, one of the many enterprises established through the system of Islamic Finance that was flourishing in Sudan in the 1980s.
1990s | Bin Laden | NISS
After Omar al-Bashir’s coup of 1989 Gosh devoted himself purely to intelligence work, acquiring the position of director of operations in the new regime’s security bureau. It was in this position that he liaised with a number of the militant Islamist groups based within the wider Middle Eastern region and helped to provide Osama bin Laden with the economic and military infrastructure to make Sudan an early base of operations for al-Qa’eda.
He was sacked from this post in 1995 as a result of the international and domestic backlash of the failed assassination attempt on Hosni Mubarak in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia and subsequently spent time as a director at the Military Industrial Complex at Yarmouk.
Gosh later returned to the intelligence services, becoming a head of internal security, and then the director of the National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS), which was established in the early 2000s to merge the domestic and external security organs into one unit.
Split in the Islamist Movement
Although he sided with Omar al-Bashir and the National Congress Party after the split within the Islamic Movement that occurred in 1999, he is believed to have adopted a somewhat more diplomatic approach than others in the government towards Hassan al-Turabi and his Popular Congress Party (PCP). He is reported to have clashed with his deputy Muhammad al-Atta Fadl al-Mula over the latter’s frequent internments of PCP members, believing that harsh treatment of the PCP might prevent reconciliation and generate a backlash later on.
Role in Darfur War Crimes
His response to the outbreak of the Darfur rebellion was less diplomatic. In 2006 he was listed as one of 17 men a panel of UN experts considered responsible for war crimes committed in the region since the outbreak of the conflict in 2003. Nevertheless, in spite of being regarded by US officials as ‘up to his butt in the genocide in Darfur’, he continued to act as a liaison between the American and Sudanese governments in intelligence sharing operations.
al-Qa’eda | CIA | "War on Terror"
Before the establishment of NISS, Gosh’s predecessors had been handing al-Qa’eda suspects to the CIA, the government fearing that unless the Americans were appeased following 9/11 Sudan would face a similar backlash to Afghanistan – although Gosh allegedly accused those who went before him of handing over ‘fake’ terrorists to Langley.
It seems that under Gosh the contribution of NISS to the ‘War on Terror’ was more substantial. In 2005 a State Department official told a reporter from the Los Angeles Times that the information provided by NISS was “important, functional and current”.
There were even claims that NISS agents had been aiding US intelligence operations in Iraq and Somalia. Salah Gosh himself informed the Los Angeles Times that ‘We have a strong partnership with the CIA. The information we have provided has been very useful to the United States’.
Gosh’s reported visit to Washington DC in 2005 drew widespread criticism from human rights groups. In was not until 2005 that the face of the previously secretive Gosh appeared in the media in Sudan, after he was pictured with Ibrahim Nugud following his discovery of the Sudanese Communist Party (SCP) chief’s hiding place.
2009 Sacking As NISS Director
In spite of the publicity surrounding his relationship with the United States, Gosh remained in his position as director of NISS until President Omar al-Bashir replaced him with his deputy Muhammad al-Atta Fadl al-Mula in 2009. Gosh was then appointed to the somewhat ambiguous position of ‘presidential security advisor’. Some have speculated that this occurred because Gosh was made to look weak by the attack on Omdurman conducted by the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) in 2008.
It may also have been the result of power struggles within the NCP. It is believed that at around this time a strong divide had formed within the NCP leadership between those hailing from Shayqiyya backgrounds, such as the vice president Ali Osman Taha, Awad al-Jaz and Salah Gosh, and those from Ja’aliyyin backgrounds such as Nafie Ali Nafie and Omar al-Bashir. It is believed that al-Atta Fadl al-Mula was closer to the latter group, and that he was already being used by officers in external security who were resentful of Gosh’s control over the merged security apparatus to attack his boss.
Power Politics in the NCP
Wikileaks cables released in 2011 showed that as early as 2008 Gosh had been considering exploiting the ICC indictment against Omar al-Bashir to enable Ali Osman Taha to displace him and take power himself. Earlier in 2011, Gosh had been relegated from the NCP leadership altogether by al-Bashir following a public spat with Nafie Ali Nafie over his talks with the opposition parties. Nafie, well known for his hardline stance on dialogue with the opposition, insisted that the negotiations that Gosh was conducting under the aegis of the Presidential Security Advisory did not enjoy the sanction of the party leadership, a statement that Gosh publicly contradicted by insisting that it had the support of al-Bashir himself. Al-Bashir subsequently sacked Gosh, and senior members of the NCP informed the media it was his efforts to expand his mandate as security advisor that led to his downfall.
Speculation that Gosh would be removed from the NCP altogether has proved inaccurate, and he continues to represent the seat of Merowe in the National Parliament. He has visited Hasan al-Turabi, but in blogger Magdi el-Gizouli’s words, ‘Towards Gosh, Turabi had only Schadenfreude to show. He claimed in the fashion of an all knowing headmaster that the former security chief had too high aspirations, way beyond his means.’ Nevertheless, he still uses media interviews to push for engagement between the NCP and the opposition, declaring ‘the determination of the NCP to continue the dialogue with the political forces’.
‘Official Pariah Sudan Valuable to America’s War on Terrorism’, Los Angeles Times April 29 2005 http://articles.latimes.com/2005/apr/29/world/fg-sudan29
Magdi el-Gizouli, ‘Turabi: Politics to the Grave’, StillSudan 6 May 2011 http://stillsudan.blogspot.co.uk/2011/05/turabi-politics-to-grave.html
‘Sudan’s Bashir removes powerful intelligence chief’, Sudan Tribune Friday 18 August 2009, http://www.sudantribune.com/spip.php?article32130
Sabah Musa, ‘“Salah Gosh”: Rajul al-Mukhabarat al-Qawwi fi al-Sudan Nihaya aw Bidaya al-Mishwar?’, Africaalyom, 29 April 2011, http://www.africaalyom.com/web/Details/2693-2/news.htm
‘Gosh: al-Sudan Musta’idd li-Muwajiha ayy Makhatir’, al-Ahdath 5 May 2012, http://www.alahdath.sd/details.php?articleid=19843
International Crisis Group, ‘Divisions in Sudan’s Ruling Party and the Threat to the Country’s Future Stability’, 4 May 2011, http://www.crisisgroup.org/ /media/Files/africa/horn-of-africa/sudan/174%20Divisions%20in%20Sudans%20Ruling%20Party%20and%20the%20Threat%20to%20the%20Countrys%20Future%20Stability%202.
Salah Gosh - Links
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Al Jazeera English | Inside Story - US/Sudan relations | 26 Aug 2007
A delegation of senior Sudanese officials are in the US for talks with their American counterparts. Inside Story asks if this is a new chapter or a compromise in US/Sudan relations.
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