Khartoum — A Sudanese official has revealed that the group of 25 Islamist extremists captured by the authorities following a gun battle earlier this week has been identified as a "Salafist Jihadist" organization, saying that the federal government has dispatched a special team to investigate with the detainees.
Sudanese police authorities said on Friday that they captured 25 Islamist extremists after attacking their training camp in Al-Dinndir Wildlife Park in the central state of Sennar southeast of the capital Khartoum. Sennar State governor, Ahmad Abbas, said at the time that only two were killed and four policemen were injured in the clashes but an account given by Sudan Tribune's sources tell otherwise.
The attack on the camp happened one month after the group attacked a Wildlife Police station in Galgo area in Al-Dinndir and seized amounts of arms and military equipments.
Initially the authorities suspected that this was the work of hunters who are active in the region but further investigations revealed the existence of a training camp used by Islamist extremists who are believed to be bound for Mali and Somalia.
This discovery of the camp was linked to a radical cell Sudanese authorities were monitoring in Khartoum few weeks prior to that but abruptly dropped off the radar and its members were never found.
At this point, the authorities decided to storm the camp and enforcements were sent to the area to dismantle it and arrest its members. One source described the camp as being "fully equipped" housing a "large number" of trainees as well as communication devices and computers.
An eye witnesses told Sudan Tribune that a convoy of at least a 20 government vehicles were involved in the gun battle that ensued and lasted from 12 in the afternoon till 8 at night indicating heavy resistance.
The force killed 13 of the extremists, arrested one but others managed to flee. On the government side one of the wildlife guards was seriously injured and later passed away while two others sustained injuries.
The governor described the group's members as young university students whose ages range from 19 and 25. He further added that charges of murder, incitation and formation of a criminal network had already been pressed against the detainees in Al-Dinndir.
Meanwhile, the commissioner of Al-Hawata locality in neighboring Al-Qadarif state, Ali Osman, told the subtly pro-government Al-Shoroug satellite TV on Monday that the authorities had pressed charges against the detainees and dispatched a special team to investigate with them. He added that they were caught with communication devices.
Osman was keen to emphasize that the detainees were receiving good treatment from the authorities. But he declined to reveal their names citing security and humanitarian considerations "until their parents are informed"
He added that preliminary investigations indicated that the group members harbor certain opinions in issues of governance and Islamic Sharia. "As far as we're concerned, it's a Salafist-Jihadist group", he said.
According to the commissioner, the group comprises graduates of medicine, aviation studies, engineering and computer studies. He further revealed that their supplies were coming from Khartoum which he said was indication that there could be other pockets of this cell to be discovered by security authorities. Osman concluded that the security situation in the area is stable and was not affected by the incident.
Radical Islam has been rising in Sudan over the years. Hard-line Islamist groups like the Salafist Ansar Al-Suna and others have been particularly active in universities where they managed to gain a considerable following among students.
There has been a significant increase in activities of Islamic extremist cells. In 2007, Sudanese authorities said that they have foiled a plot to blow up several Western embassies as well as UN building.
One year later, an American USAID employee and his driver were killed in Khartoum by four men who belong to the Islamic militant group known as Ansar al-Tawhid which claimed responsibility for the killing.
In 2009 a Sudanese court ordered all of them hanged to death after finding them guilty of murdering the two men. But the convicts managed to escape later from the maximum security facility they were held in raising many questions about whether they received insider help.
Last year the family of one of the escapees said he was killed in Somalia without giving details.
Last month security sources in Mali said that foreign jihadists from countries such as Algeria and Sudan have arrived in north of the country to support armed Islamist groups who are imposing an increasingly brutal version of Shar'ia law in the vast northern areas under their control.
Sudan has welcomed Bin Laden in the 1990's but expelled him in 1996 under intense US pressure. Since 2001 the Sudanese intelligence cooperated with the US law enforcement agencies to track down suspected terrorists in East Africa.
The US added Sudan to its state terror list in 1993, accusing Khartoum of harboring local and international militants but as a result of counter terrorism cooperation promised to de-list it pending political settlement to civil conflicts in the country.