By Radio Dabanga — Dar es-Salaam in eastern Darfur fell to a joint rebel force on Thursday. Several rebel factions joined in the attack, making it the first such joint assault in recent years. One of the rebel high commanders said that the attack was reprisal for the government’s offensive on Shangil Tobaya and Khor Abeche. Gunfire was audible as he spoke to Radio Dabanga from the field.
Fighting in Shangil Tobaya area escalated since initial clashes more than a week ago between the government and the Sudan Liberation Movement of Minni Minawi. The movement is now in open war with the government for the first time since before the Abuja peace deal in 2006. The army’s latest assaults have targeted towns and villages controlled by SLM-Minawi, including attacks Tuesday on villages south of Shangil Tobaya.
Although the towns Khor Abeche and Shangil Tobaya had been controlled by forces loyal to Minni Minawi, reportedly they were empty of rebel forces when attacked. The attackers burnt five villages: Hila Jadeed, Gudu, Jibla At-Teen, Aman-alla, and Kandibu. Thousands fled the attacking forces; Shaddid IDP Camp in Shangil Tobaya was nearly wholly deserted. Soldiers looted in both the camp and the town. Witnesses reported aerial bombardment in some areas, especially Khosusa in the area of Jibla At-Teen.
Ali Karbino, a rebel commander in the ceasefire signatory group LJM, said Thursday on Radio Dabanga that the attacks on Khor Abeche and Shangil Tobaya targeted civilians and certain ethnic groups. He called for rebel unity to topple the National Congress Party regime.
Forces of Karbino, who is top commander for the Liberation and Justice Movement, participated in the rebels’ reprisal attack on Dar es-Salaam on Thurday. The joint force also included fighters from the Justice and Equality Movement, the Sudan Liberation Movement factions of Minawi and Abdel Wahid, and a unit led by Abdullah Yahia. According to Abubakr Hamid Al Nur, a JEM rebel official, the attack aimed to ‘protect civilians’ in response to the large-scale assault on civilians in Shangil Tobayi and Khor Abeche.
The joint rebel force reportedly routed the government troops in Dar es Salaam and captured all of their military vehicles as well as prisoners. The joint attack is the first of its kind in recent years and may mark a major gathering of the movements for a broad offensive against the Sudanese army. It was not possible to contact the army for comment on the news.
SLM-Minawi claims to have killed at least 250 government troops who had been stationed in Dar es Salaam locality. The movement claims also it seized 27 carriages loaded with different kinds of weapons and ammunition. Mohamed Bashir Abdullah, the former director of the Minawi’s office, told Radio Dabanga that their troops have gained complete control of Dar es Salaam Locality.
Thousands of people fled the area. Dr. Ismail Hussein Fadlallah, MP and leader of the opposition bloc in parliament, put the number at 12000. He said that the people are living in the open without food or water or shelter. There are no NGOs operating there because it is too insecure.
Radio Dabanga made several attempts to reach the spokesman of the UNAMID peacekeepers, without success. However, in an e-mailed statement, UNAMID reported today that refugees have been gathering around their military outposts in Khor Abeche (2000 people), Shangil Tobaya (4000) and Shearia (360). UNAMID also said that it is investigating whether an IDP camp in Shaeria was attacked.