Khartoum — The former rebel Liberation and Justice Movement (LJM) has accused local authorities in North Darfur State of attacking its forces, demanding an official apology from the government with which they signed a peace deal to end an eight-year conflict in Sudan's western region.
A handout picture released by the United Nations and African Union Mission in Darfur shows members of the coalition of rebel forces (SLA Minni Minawi, SLA Abdul Wahid and LJM) who control the village of Fanga Suk, West Darfur, in March 2011.
An LJM official who asked not to be named told Sudan Tribune that forces belonging to the Sudanese army known as SAF intercepted their troops on the road between Kutum town and the capital of North Darfur State, Al-Fasher, on Wednesday. He added that an altercation ensued before SAF soldiers initiated hostilities and opened fire, killing three and arresting two of their combatants.
The official said that they had refused to receive the dead bodies of their soldiers and lodged a complaint with the Sudanese ministry of defense, demanding an official apology for what he described as a breach of the Doha Document for Peace in Darfur (DDPD) which his group signed with the government in mid-July 2011.
LJM official said that their force was attacked as it was returning to Al-Fasher from a mission of which they already informed the government.
This incident represents the first instance of confrontation between local authorities in North Darfur and forces of the Darfur Regional Authority (DRA) which was established under the DDPD and is chaired by LJM's leader Al-Tijani Al-Sissi.
But Sudanese authorities spoke only of an attack against forces of the rebel coalition Sudanese Revolutionary Front (SRF).
According to the commander-in-chief of SAF's sixth division in Al-Fasher, Brigadier General Taj Al-Din Ahmed, their forces thwarted an attempt by SRF rebels on Wednesday morning to shell the North Darfur capital from a distance of 14 kilometres in Hilat Al-Shaikh area. He said that they had clashed with the rebels and killed two of them.
Addressing a celebration held in Al-Fasher on the occasion of the "thwarted attack", Ahmed said that they received intelligence that a force from SRF was preparing a mortar attack on the town and intercepted them at 2 am on Wednesday, which led to the eruption of clashes between the two sides. He claimed that SAF had defeated the rebels and seized two vehicles and a rocket-propelled grenade.
Speaking in the same event, North Darfur governor Osman Kibir criticized the alleged move by the "Superstitious Front" a pun on the SRF, for what he described as their foolish attempt to replicate the version of mortar attacks by the rebel Sudan People's Liberation Movement North, also a member of SRF, on the capital of South Kordofan State Kadugli.
Kibir alleged that the rebels were intending to fire rockets on the IDPs camps of Abu Shouk and Al-Salam to target innocent people, describing their alleged move as disgraceful. He vowed that his government will remain steadfast against the fifth column who supports rebels inside Al-Fasher.
However, the DRA denied the veracity of the government's narrative of what happened on Wednesday, saying that SAF only attacked three LJM vehicles and called for the formation of a joint investigation committee to probe the incident. DRA's chairman Al-Tijani Al-Sissi said that the attacked forces belong to LJM and they were conducting a routine mission. He stressed that these forces do not belong to any other group.
LJM itself also issued a statement condemning what it described as a "deliberate attack" on their forces by SAF while on a patrol coming from West Darfur. The statement termed the event as a conspiracy by the authorities who knew of their movement and decided to prevent them from entering Al-Fasher.
Wednesday's events indicate the existence of latent hostility between local authorities in north Darfur and the DRA, which was established to oversee the implementation of the DDPD, over supposed conflicts of mandate and jurisdictions.
There has been a surge of tribal violence and attacks on IDPs camps by erstwhile pro-government militias in north Darfur since August, following the assassination of Al-Waha district commissioner.