Chadian army in Sudan's Kordofan

Southern Kordofan
May 28, 2013 (Radio Tamazuj)

Chadian armed forces have pursued rebels from the restive Darfur region into south-central Sudan at least as far as Babanusa, according to multiple reports that have been independently verified.

Chadian forces were sighted by a source in Melit, North Darfur, about a week ago. From there they traveled south-east into South Kordofan possibly via East Darfur or Qubaish in North Kordofan.

The reason for their presence in South Kordofan is not entirely clear but they may be pursuing an armed convoy of the Justice and Equality Movement, the Islamist rebel faction whose leaders formerly had links to regimes in both N'Djamena and Khartoum.

JEM rebels recently took hostage a number of top members of the so-called ‘JEM-Bashar' splinter faction. The leader of that group, who signed a peace treaty with the Sudanese government in Doha in April, was assassinated together with his deputy in eastern Chad on 12 May.

Rebels are attempting to transfer the hostages into the Nuba Mountains, which are controlled by the allied rebel group SPLM-N.

JEM spokesman Jibreel Adam Bilal confirmed that among the hostages in their custody is the spokesman of the late rebel leader, Ali Wafi. He objected to calling the captives ‘hostages', however, claiming that they are still members of the movement and will be judged according to the law of the rebel group.

It is separately reported that the former top field commander of JEM, Bakheit Abdallah Abdel-Karim, nicknamed ‘Dabajo,' who has taken command of the splinter faction, may have sent his forces to aid the Chadian army in their pursuit.

Hundreds of fighters

The size of the Chadian force is unclear but judging from the number of reported vehicles there are probably hundreds of fighters involved.

On Sunday a source in Babanusa in western South Kordofan reported that a convoy of 57 Chadian military vehicles mounted with heavy machine guns and soldiers appeared in the market area, where soldiers purchased goods such as cigarettes.

In fighting that began Saturday north of Babanusa a JEM force that was temporarily halted at Al Bouta clashed with a national security and intelligence force who were based at Al Fula. Many wounded were seen being transferred to Babanusa Hospital. Whether the Chadians were involved in this clash is not clear.

According to the spokesman of JEM, the Chadian force consists of 74 vehicles under two different commanders. He claimed that the force has moved on from Babanusa to the oil-rich area of Kharasana, thinking that JEM would move to that area.

Another source, however, suggested that some of the Chadian force have by now turned back north to El Fasher, the capital of North Darfur, and some of the force are still in South Kordofan. Yet another suggested that the Sudanese military command in Babanusa was displeased by the unexpected arrival of the Chadians in the city.

Civilians in Lagawa, meanwhile, reported that a convoy of JEM fighters passed through the area yesterday and looted supplies from the market.

Chad and Sudan fought a long proxy war until about 2010, after which relations thawed. The two nations now maintain joint military patrols along their vast border and have exchanged several presidential visits.

Jibreel Adam Bilal linked the presence of the Chadians to a recent visit of Bashir to his counterpart Idriss Deby in N'Djamena, where the latter supposedly agreed to support Khartoum's military efforts.


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