Mohamed Bashar, leader of a breakaway faction of the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) and his deputy, Suleiman Arko, were killed on Sunday during an attack near the Chad-Sudanese border.
Conflicting reports surrounding the circumstances of the attack were issued by the mainstream JEM who are accused of carrying out the deadly attack, and the JEM-Bashar faction.
Bashar was returning to Darfur from the Chadian capital before heading to Khartoum for the implementation of a peace deal he signed with the government in Doha on 6 April. In a report in the Sudan Tribune, Bashar’s adviser Nahar Osman said that more than 30 rebel vehicles attacked Bashar’s convoy in Pamina, Chad, four kilometres from the Chad-Sudan border.
According to Osman, Bashar and his delegation did not have any military escort, and his group was accompanied to the border by a single Chadian security officer. He said that 10 people died in the attack, including the two leaders, the Chadian security officer and two cattle herders who were near the area at the time of the attack.
On 11 September 2012 a splinter faction of JEM announced its separation from Darfur’s largest rebel group, accusing the movement of becoming a biased organization, expressing favouritism to some particular ideas and accused the group of being no longer transparent.
In response, JEM spokesman Jibril Adam Bilal said these new developments would not affect the movement and vowed to continue fighting against the National Congress Party.
Shortly afterwards, Mohamed Bashar Ahmed, leader of a JEM faction, signed the Doha Document for Peace in Darfur (DDPD) with the Sudanese government in Qatar. The peace deal has been also signed in mid-2011 by the Liberation and Justice Movement led by Tijani Sese.
The DDPD governs relations between the Sudanese government and Darfur armed groups that have left the rebellion. The late Arko was the deputy chairman who led the negotiating team during peace talks with the Sudanese government.
Osman reiterated that the group remains committed to the peace process in spite of the attacks that killed their former comrades.
“JEM: 20 captured”
A JEM spokesman told Radio Dabanga that 20 JEM-Bashar were captured. He could not yet confirm exact casualty figures as the attack occurred at night, and the 20 prisoners still had to be interrogated.
He said that their forces repelled an attack by the splinter group in Tina, a town in North Darfur not far from the border with Chad “controlled” by the rebels.
The spokesman said that the group came from Doha to N’Djamena and entered Sudan via Darfur on Sunday “with 30 four-wheel-drive vehicles loaded with weapons and military equipment”.
“Those captured will not be treated as Prisoners of War in terms of international law, but as traitors. They will be investigated and then subjected to a fair trial by the JEM,” the spokesman said. He denied that this is an act of terrorism.
“The JEM is an armed political movement. Its goal ever since Sudan’s independence in 1956 has been to represent the rights of the marginalised.” He added that “the JEM and SRF do not attack civilians, but always attack the SAF”.
The Security Service and the Sudanese Foreign Ministry has issued a statement on behalf of the Sudanese government condemning “the assassination of the leaders of JEM-Bashar in cold blood”.
The statement describes the incident as “an act of terrorism that undermines the peace process and it is a crime, added to the crimes committed by SRF in Asimiah, and Allah Karim, and in Abu Karshola where it is still ongoing”.
The Chadian government has yet to comment on the incident.
Last April, JEM reportedly killed the deputy general commander of the breakaway faction, Saleh Moahmed Jerbo, during clashes in the remote area of Furawiyya in North Darfur. Jerbo was indicted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) for supposedly killing 12 UNAMID peacekeepers in 2007.
JEM at the time was “not able to confirm or deny” the death of Jerbo, whose trial was set for 5 May 2014 by the ICC. However, according to reports, the court must get proof of his death before the case can be dropped.
UNAMID condemns assassination
In a statement on 13 May, Unamid Chief Mohamed Ibn Chambas condemned “in the strongest terms the criminal attack on 12 May 2013 which led to the killing of Mohamed Bashar, leader of the Justice and Equality Movement-Sudan (JEM/Bashar), and a number of his colleagues.”
Chambas said this group had “clearly stated its preference for a peaceful resolution to the conflict in Darfur when it joined the DDPD”.
He urged all sides involved in the fighting in Darfur and especially the non-signatory armed movements to cease hostilities, respect international humanitarian law and engage fully in the peaceful settlement of the conflict.
File photo: Mohamed Bashar Ahmed
Lawyers say ICC suspect Jerbo killed in Darfur (24 April 2013)
JEM splinter group announced (12 September 2012)