Sudan rebels launch 'big offensive' in Kordofan
KHARTOUM // Sudanese rebels have begun a major operation against an area in South Kordofan that a controversial counterinsurgency unit showed off to journalists after “liberating” it last week.
The local commander of the government troops, known as Rapid Support-2, was reported killed.
“Our forces launched a big offensive in Daldako”, Arnu Ngutulu Lodi, spokesman for the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N), said on Saturday.
Fighting continued into Saturday evening, said Mr Lodi, who could not be contacted on Sunday.
Troops from Rapid Support-2 said they had seized the strategic Daldako area, 17 kilometres north-east of South Kordofan’s state capital Kadugli, on May 18.
Two days later they flew journalists to the area, allowing a rare visit to a war zone where access is tightly restricted.
Troops held a victory rally, followed by another one the next day in Khartoum.
But, on Sunday Al Sudani newspaper, quoting the defence minister Abdelrahim Mohammed Hussein, said the Daldako field commander of Rapid Support-2 had been killed in the rebel counter-attack.
He said government forces defeated the rebels but Colonel Hussein Jeber Al Dar lost his life.
“He was a brave man.”
Residents of Kadugli reported hearing heavy outgoing government artillery fire on Saturday.
“It was really serious shelling all morning yesterday,” a resident said on Sunday. “It was unusual.”
Ethnic minority rebels in South Kordofan have been fighting government forces for three years in a largely hidden war that the United Nations says has affected more than 1 million people.
Sudan’s National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS), which has authority over Rapid Support, invited journalists to Daldako following accusations that a sister unit in Sudan’s western region of Darfur had abused civilians.
In an April report, the UN chief Ban Ki-moon said Rapid Support elements had attacked and burnt villages in Darfur.
After Sudanese opposition leader Sadiq Al Mahdi reportedly made similar comments, NISS agents arrested him on May 17.
Observers have said Mr Al Mahdi’s arrest undermined a dialogue between the ruling National Congress and other political parties aimed at ending Sudan’s multiple wars, economic crisis and political divisions.
Mr Al Mahdi’s arrest was a power play by elements of the security service, said Magdi El Gizouli, a fellow at the Rift Valley Institute.
“In presenting itself as a fighting force capable of challenging insurgencies, the NISS is obviously boosting its stature with the ambition to achieve the kind of political recognition that” the Sudanese Armed Forces continues to enjoy, Mr El Gizouli said last week.
The Sudanese Armed Forces are distinct from the military units of NISS.
* Agence France-Presse
Published: May 25, 2014 04:00 AM