November 1, 2012 at 17:00 Posted by David Eshel
EROS Satellite images of the Yarmouk ammunition plant in Khartum, Sudan, before and after the pre-dawn attack October 24, 2012. Photos: Imagesat
A powerful explosion at the Yarmuk military factory rocked Sudan’s capital before dawn, sending detonating ammunition flying through the air and causing panic, the Sudan official news agency and local media reports said. Thick black smoke covered the sky over the Military Industrial Complex in southern Khartoum. Sudan’s media reported that nearby buildings were damaged by the blast, their roofs blown off and their windows shattered. The effects of the blast suggested a “highly volatile cargo” was at the epicenter of the explosion.
The Sudanese minister who immediately accused Israel of carrying out an aerial strike on a weapons factory near Khartoum apparently knew what he was talking about. Although located inside a strong security perimeter around it, the so-called Yarmuk compound run by the Military Industry Corporation, is well known to Sudanese as Iranian territory, serving as a stopover in weapons smuggling to Hamas Gaza. The minister showed journalists a video of a huge crater next to two destroyed buildings and what appeared to be an unidentified rocket motor lying on the ground. Analysing the explosions and the massive fire which blazed for hours, setting off more fires even days after the attack, it seems that the “factory” must have contained a large amount of explosives and inflammatory substances, indicating military nature. It also seems viable that the target could have been a series of containers stored inside the compound, which were loaded and ready for dispatch.
Posted : Wednesday Jul 11, 2012 14:51:57 EDT
KHARTOUM, Sudan — A man who spent a decade as a prisoner in the U.S. detention facility for militants in Guantanamo Bay returned Wednesday to his native Sudan after completing a shortened sentence for aiding al-Qaida in Afghanistan.
Ibrahim al-Qosi was getting reacquainted with his wife and two daughters and other family members and will spend some time in a government-sponsored reintegration program in the capital, Khartoum, before returning to his hometown, said his lawyer Paul Reichler.
Al-Qosi, who recently turned 52, had not seen his family since he was captured and sent to the U.S. base in Cuba in early 2002. His release brings the prison population down to 168.
“I guess you call this probably the best birthday present he ever received,” Reichler, a Washington-based specialist in international law, said in a phone interview from Greece, where he was speaking at a legal conference.
The Pentagon and state-run media in Sudan confirmed al-Qosi’s release.
Al-Qosi admitted serving food and providing other services at a militant camp. He was among the first prisoners taken to the Guantanamo, the hastily arranged detention center to hold men suspected of ties to al-Qaida and the Taliban after the invasion of Afghanistan.
From a high of nearly 700, the population is now down to less than 170. President Obama vowed to close the prison but has been prevented from doing so by Congress.
Al-Qosi, who moved to Afghanistan in 1996 to work with Islamic militants, struck a deal with U.S. military prosecutors in July 2010, pleading guilty to providing material support to terrorism and conspiracy in exchange for a 14-year sentence that would be shortened to two years from his conviction. It spared him the possibility of a much longer sentence, perhaps even life.
He was never accused of any specific acts of violence. He worked as a cook and helped gather supplies for a militant camp. His lawyer said he may have accompanied Osama bin Laden as part of an entourage but was never a member of the terrorist leader’s inner circle. Bin-Laden, founder of al-Qaida, was killed in a U.S. raid in Pakistan last year.
Border clashes and insecurity along the border between Western Bahr El Ghazal and South Darfur have affected thousands of people in Raja County, causing displacement and suffering, according to the county executive.
Most of the inhabitants of Radom and Sira Malaka bomas have moved toward Fireka Boma, south of Raja, where they are facing lack of health services and food.
Raja County Commissioner Rizik Dominic told Radio Tamazuj in a phone interview on Tuesday that more than 10 thousand people in Raja County are lacking basic services as a result of border clashes in May. He explained that the situation in Fireka is worsened by fear of attacks attributed to the Lord’s Resistance Army, which has driven a number of South Sudanese away from the western border.
He explained that the local services are not enough for such a large number of people. Additionally, a number of Darfuri refugees have been living in Raja County for many years.
The commissioner explained that the bad road conditions are not allowing aid to reach Fireka and other areas.
He added that the local government is trying to link up with NGOs in order to find other ways to support the citizens in these emergency situations
Mr. Dominic appealed to NGOs to provide helicopters to deliver humanitarian aid while he also called on the government to improve the road conditions.
The Commissioner further said that at the moment the situation at Raja County’s border is unpredictable and Khartoum is still flying more soldiers into the border areas.
The United States sent home to Sudan on Tuesday one of Guantánamo’s longest-held prisoners, a 52-year-old confessed al Qaida foot soldier and sometime driver for Osama bin Laden whose release was seen as a crucial test case of the Barack Obama-era war court.
Ibrahim al Qosi pleaded guilty to terror charges in July 2010 in exchange for the possibility of release after serving a two-year sentence.
U.S. troops spirited him from the remote base days after his war crimes sentence ran out and dropped him off in the capital city Khartoum about 8 p.m. Miami time Tuesday night, Wednesday in Sudan, U.S. government sources said.
The Pentagon has not yet disclosed the transfer — which reduced the number of foreign prisoners at the Navy base in Cuba to 168 — to give Sudanese officials time to put the returnee in a rehabilitation program in the Horn of Africa nation. But the repatriation demonstrated that the Obama administration is still in the business of deal-making and downsizing the prison camps even as the Defense Department is planning to spend $40 million on an undersea telecommunications cable to the base in southeast Cuba.
Now-grown “child soldier” Omar Khadr could go next, to a lock-up in his native Canada. The White House is also reportedly considering transferring some Taliban captives at Guantánamo to Afghanistan as part of a regional peace accord there.
The release of Qosi was the first of a convicted war criminal since the Bush administration sent home Yemeni Salim Hamdan in 2008. Qosi’s attorney argued the U.S. had no reason to fear the Sudanese man.
“He is now in his 50s, eager only to spend his life at home with his family in Sudan — his mother and father, his wife and two teenage daughters, and his brothers and their families — and live among them in peace, quiet and freedom,” said Washington, D.C., attorney Paul Reichler, who defended Qosi without charge for seven years.
Amid claims of declining violence and wider regional transformations, the Darfur conflict has all but vanished from the international agenda since 2010. Virtually unnoticed by the international community, the conflict has moved into a new phase, in which the Government of Sudan has shifted away from using Arab proxy militias only to rely on newly formed (and newly armed) non-Arab proxies.
‘Forgotten Darfur‘ documents how this development has fundamentally changed the ethnic map of eastern Darfur, drawing on previously latent tensions between non-Arab groups over land, ethnicity, and local political dominance–and generating some of the most significant ethnically directed violence since the start of the conflict in 2003.
The ‘new’ war in eastern Darfur, which erupted in late 2010 and early 2011, has pitted non-Arab groups against other non-Arabs; specifically, government-backed militias drawn from small, previously marginalized non-Arab groups–including the Bergid, Berti, and Tunjur–deployed against Zaghawa rebel groups and communities.
‘Forgotten Darfur’ also reports how patterns of arms supplies to Sudanese government forces and proxy militias in Darfur have been almost entirely unimpeded by the international community, including the ineffectual UN arms embargo on Darfur. The Sudan Air Force has continued to move weapons into Darfur with complete impunity; it supported ground attacks with aerial bombardment in all of Darfur’s states during 2011 and in West and North Darfur during 2012, despite the UN Security Council’s prohibition on such offensive aerial operations since 2005.
The report also documents how transformations, regime change, and realignments in Chad, Libya, and South Sudan have not fully removed either the mechanisms of the motives for cross-border flows of arms, personnel, or political support to Darfur’s armed actors. In particular, ‘Forgotten Darfur’ explores relations between rebels and communities in western South Sudan and South Kordofan, and their potential to draw the Darfur conflict into much larger North-South confrontations. Increased linkages between Darfur’s rebel groups and the SPLM-N in South Kordofan, and the overlooked potential for conflict on the Darfur-Bahr al Ghazal border, are also highlighted.
Counter-terrorism: At the Security Council’s high-level debate on Counter-terrorism today, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said today he hoped Member States will decide to create the position of a UN Counter-Terrorism Coordinator to promote better coordination, collaboration and cooperation among all players.
Mr. Ban told the Security Council, during its debate on threats to international peace and security caused by terrorist acts, that terrorism is a significant threat to peace and security, prosperity and people, and the global community continues to pursue a robust and comprehensive response.
Meanwhile, the U.N. Security Council says international terrorism is increasingly motivated by intolerance and extremism and its perpetrators are increasingly resorting to kidnapping for ransom and coordinating acts with organized crime. A presidential statement approved by the council Friday also expressed concern at the growing use of the internet and new information and communications technologies by terrorists to recruit, incite, finance and prepare their illegal activities.
South Sudan: The United Nations announced today that U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay will visit South Sudan for four days starting Tuesday. Pillay is to meet with South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir and other top government and civil leaders beginning Tuesday. She’ll discuss the risk to civilians caught up in the hostilities between both countries.
Iran: A group of independent UN experts today condemned the ongoing arrests and harsh sentencing of human rights defenders in Iran, and urged the Government to ensure they are provided with adequate protection. Along with fellow experts, the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Iran, Ahmed Shaheed voiced particular concern about the situation of Nargess Mohammadi, whose state of health is reportedly extremely fragile.
DR Congo: The UN refugee agency is helping more than 20,000 people who have fled fighting between government forces and renegade troops in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo in recent days and found shelter in areas near Goma, the capital of North Kivu province. According to UNHCR field staff, people are still heading toward Goma and its environs from their homes in the affected Masisi and Walikale territories, located west and north-west of Goma, but the flow has eased slightly. The refugee agency has registered 10,300 people at a spontaneous site 25 kilometres from Goma, and 9,000 in Mugunga III, one of 31 UNHCR-run settlements for IDPs in North Kivu.
UN Youth Forum: The creation of green jobs is essential to ensure a sustainable future, United Nations officials stressed today at a forum held at the Organization’s Headquarters in New York aimed at giving young people a platform to voice their concerns, experiences and ideas to tackle youth unemployment.
The forum, whose theme is “Empowering Youth with Better Job Opportunities,” brought together young delegates and entrepreneurs, students and representatives of youth NGOs. Participants took part in two interactive dialogues, the first one focusing on education and training, and the second on the creation of green jobs and the conditions needed to create them.
In her address to participants, Deputy Secretary-General Asha-Rose Migiro stressed that youth are mobilizing like never before and that their ideas can help countries achieve their sustainable development objectives.
Right of Indigenous Peoples: A United Nations fact finder surveying conditions of Native Americans and Native Alaskans says he will recommend in his report that some of their lands are returned.
James Anaya has been meeting with tribal leaders, the administration and Senate members over 12 days to assess U.S. compliance with the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. He plans several suggestions in his report, likely due out this fall. Anaya says land restoration would help bring about reconciliation. He named the Black Hills of South Dakota as an example. The hills are public land but are considered sacred land by Native Americans.
WASHINGTON – The United States called Monday on Sudan to agree to an emergency aid plan in its southern war zone as officials voiced growing alarm over imminent food shortages and a rising flow of refugees.
The United Nations, Arab League and African Union have proposed to Sudan a mission to deliver aid to its states of South Kordofan and Blue Nile, where fighting broke out last year despite the independence of nearby South Sudan.
“We’ve pressed very, very hard for that,” Princeton Lyman, the US special envoy for Sudan and South Sudan, said of the aid plan.
“There are ways to get food in — other ways — but they are not sufficient to the scope of the problem,” he told reporters on a conference call. “We think it’s vital and we think it’s a very high priority.”
The conflict made international headlines last month when actor George Clooney was arrested outside Sudan’s embassy in Washington as he demanded an end to the offensive. The US Senate last week passed a resolution calling on Sudan to allow immediate humanitarian access to the restive states.
Christa Capozzola, a senior official at the US Agency for International Development, said Monday that the situation was “very serious” with 200,000 to 250,000 people close to running short of food in South Kordofan and similar shortages expected by August in Blue Nile.
Some 140,000 refugees have fled the two states, mostly to South Sudan which is putting a major burden on the young and impoverished nation, said Catherine Wiesner, a State Department official.
Some 4.7 million people in South Sudan are already facing hunger this year of which at least one million are projected to be “severely food insecure,” Wiesner told the conference call.
“Humanitarian conditions are understood to be deteriorating in both conflict zones and so additional arrivals are expected in the coming months,” she said.
“With these numbers, obviously the (humanitarian) agencies remain in a race against time,” she said.