Gunmen kill at least 20 farmers in Sudan’s Darfur, says tribal chief

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Residents of South Darfur gather to attend a speech given by the Sudanese president during a visit to the village of Bilel, near the Kalma camp for displaced people, on September 22, 2017. (File/AFP)
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A demonstrator stands with a sign listing demands of the Nertiti sit-in during a protest outside the Sudanese Professionals Association in the Garden City district of Khartoum. (AFP)
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Updated 26 July 2020

Gunmen kill at least 20 farmers in Sudan’s Darfur, says tribal chief

  • The killings took place in Aboudos, some 90 kilometers south of Nyala, the capital of South Darfur province, the tribal chief said
  • The flashes of violence in Darfur have threatened to destabilize the country’s fragile political transition

KHARTOUM, CAIRO: A Sudanese paramilitary group killed at least 20 people, including children, who were visiting their farms in Sudan’s war-torn Darfur region for the first time in years, a tribal chief, Ibrahim Ahmad said on Saturday.
“Two months ago, the government organized a meeting between the original landowners and those who took their fields” during the long-running war in Darfur, Ahmad told AFP by telephone.
“An agreement was reached whereby the landowners would return to their fields — but armed men came on Friday and opened fire, killing 20 people, including two women and children.”
The killings took place in Aboudos, some 90 km south of Nyala, the capital of South Darfur province, the tribal chief said. Several people were also wounded in the attack, he said.
The death toll “could well increase, because some of the wounded are in a serious condition,” he added.
The assault in the troubled province came a week after government-linked armed groups stormed a protest camp in North Darfur and killed 13 people, said Mohamed Abdel-Rahman Al-Nayer, a spokesman for a rebel group known as the Sudan Liberation Movement.
Darfur has been devastated since 2003 by a conflict between ethnic minority rebels, complaining of marginalization, and forces loyal to now ousted President Omar Bashir, including the feared Janjaweed militia.

FASTFACT

Darfur has been devastated since 2003 by a conflict between ethnic minority rebels and forces loyal to Omar Bashir, killing 300,000 people and displacing 2.5 million others, according to the UN.

The fighting killed 300,000 people and displaced 2.5 million others, according to the UN.
Bashir was deposed by the army in April last year following months of mass protests against his rule, triggered mainly by economic hardship.
A power-sharing transitional government between civilians and the military was sworn in during September last year.
In January this year, a coalition of nine rebel groups — including factions from Darfur — signed a preliminary agreement with the government after weeks of talks.
The flashes of violence in Darfur have threatened to destabilize the country’s fragile political transition.
Sudan’s government has vowed to end the conflicts in the country’s far-flung provinces in hopes of slashing military spending, which eats up 80 percent of the national budget.
Rebel groups from Darfur and southern Sudan have for months engaged in peace talks. As part of a wider effort to hold former officials to account, the public prosecutor has pledged to investigate alleged atrocities in Darfur.
Yet sporadic violence continues, with each new attack fueling fears that ruling authorities may not deliver on their promises.
“The militia that committed this crime is supported by the old regime,” Al-Nayer said.

 


Revealed: How Iran smuggles weapons to the Houthis

Updated 01 October 2020

Revealed: How Iran smuggles weapons to the Houthis

  • Captured gang tells of route to Yemen through base in Somalia

AL-MUKALLA, Yemen: A captured gang of arms smugglers has revealed how Iran supplies weapons to Houthi militias in Yemen through a base in Somalia.

The Houthis exploit poverty in Yemen to recruit fishermen as weapons smugglers, and send fighters to Iran for military training under cover of “humanitarian” flights from Yemen to Oman, the gang said.

The four smugglers have been interrogated since May, when they were arrested with a cache of weapons in Bab Al-Mandab, the strategic strait joining the Red Sea to the Gulf of Aden.

In video footage broadcast on Yemeni TV, gang leader Alwan Fotaini, a fisherman from Hodeidah, admits he was recruited by the Houthis in 2015. His recruiter, a smuggler called Ahmed Halas, told him he and other fishermen would be based in the Somali coastal city of Berbera, from where they would transport weapons and fuel to the Houthis. 

In late 2015, Fotaini traveled to Sanaa and met a Houthi smuggler called Ibrahim Hassam Halwan, known as Abu Khalel, who would be his contact in Iran. 

This is a complex network that requires constant monitoring, hence the focus on maritime security.

Dr. Theodore Karasik, Security analyst

Pretending to be relatives of wounded fighters, Fotaini, Abu Khalel, and another smuggler called Najeeb Suleiman boarded a humanitarian flight to Oman, and then flew to Iran. They were taken to the port city of Bandar Abbas, where they received training on using GPS, camouflage, steering vessels and maintaining engines.

“We stayed in Bandar Abbas for a month as they were preparing an arms shipment that we would be transporting to Yemen,” Fotaini said.

On Fotaini’s first smuggling mission, his job was to act as a decoy for another boat carrying Iranian weapons to the Houthis. “The plan was for us to call the other boat to change course if anyone intercepted our boat,” he said.

He was then sent to Mahra in Yemen to await new arms shipments. The Houthis sent him data for a location at sea, where he and other smugglers met Abu Khalel with a boat laden with weapons from Iran, which were delivered to the Houthis.

Security analyst Dr. Theodore Karasik said long-standing trade ties between Yemen and Somalia made arms smuggling difficult to stop. “This is a complex network that requires constant monitoring, hence the focus on maritime security,” Karasik, a senior adviser to Gulf State Analytics in Washington, DC, told Arab News.

“The smuggling routes are along traditional lines of communication that intermix with other maritime commerce. The temptation to look the other way is sometimes strong, so sharp attention is required to break these chains.”