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Africa Confidential, October 2007

AU investigation of Haskanita attack in Darfur
This preliminary report by the then African Union Mission in Sudan on the attack on AMIS peacekeepers of 29-30 September 2007 has never been published. A fuller, December 2007 AMIS report on the attack appears not even to have leaked. The attack by rebels at Haskanita, Darfur, is not to be confused with the ambush of the Unitd Nations-AU Mission in Sudan on 8 July 2008 near El Geneina, when seven UNAMID troops died, apparently at the hands of government-backed militia.

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UNIAO AFRICANA Force Headquarters African Union Mission in Sudan 
El-Fasher – Sudan
Fax: +249-731-831560, E-mail: amisfc@yahoo.com 
Copy No…. of ….
Int/Sy Cell 
AMIS/FHQ/INTSY/G/002 El-Fasher

FHQ 9 Oct 07
A. AMIS/FHQ/INTSY/G/002 dated 17 Jul 07.
B. FHQ SIG G/862 DTG 301147 C Sep 07.
C. FC’s Verbal Directive on 1 Oct 07. 

1. A fatal attack on MGS Haskanita on 29/30 Sep 07, by a faction to the Darfur conflict resulted in the death of 10 peace keepers and injuries to several others. The situation compelled the FHQ to order the evacuation of all AMIS personnel and allied staff from the MGS. To cushion the effects of the attack on the peace process, the FHQ embarked on a number of actions amongst which were the re-occupation of the MGS, establishment of the motive behind the attack and identification of the perpetrators of the crime. This investigation report will attempt to highlight the remote and immediate causes of the attack, situate the probable intention and thereafter, chronicle details of the attack. The report will also try to identify the factions and persons behind the attack, express opinion, before drawing lessons. 

2. The fight for supremacy over Haskanita by the Government of Sudan (GoS) forces and the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) was first reported when the long convoy of JEM combatants comprising 84 armed vehicles left Tine Chad into Sudan on 1 Jul 07. Before the movement, Haskanita was predominantly under the control of SLA (M), a signatory to the DPA. The southward movement of the JEM combatants it must be recalled was characterized by attacks on either GoS or SLA (M) positions, as well as civilians. The MGS Um Kadada (Sector 1), Masteri (Sector 3), Um Barru (Sector 5), Kutum (Sector 6) all reported various incidences involving the JEM combatants as they moved across their AORs. The MGS Haskanita (Sector 8) particularly reported the tensed and unpredictable security situation occasioned by the presence of the JEM combatants in their AOR.      

3. Again, on 20 Jul 07, suspected JEM combatants stopped a train that departed El Daein just before Abu Jabra area and robbed the police escorts of arms/ammunitions, while money and other goods belonging to the passengers were looted. In Jul 07, a discernible increase was observed in the movements of GoS forces especially around Um Kadada presumably to counter the JEM combatants. Reference A dated 17 Jul 07, projected the possibility of an implosion involving the GoS and JEM forces if the situation was not properly handled. By 3 Aug 07, Mohammed Osman, the SLA (M) Rep at the MGS Haskanita led a team to the MGS to renounce their membership of SLA (M). He further informed the MGS of the emergence of SLA (United) and their partnership with JEM. These intermittent skirmishes involving the JEM combatants, GoS and other factions persisted until Sep 07 when it took a turn for the worse. 

4. On 27 Aug 07, the JEM commander, Abdulaziz Nur Osher accompanied by his officers and spokesman visited the MGS to assure the MGS Comd that his forces were in charge of Haskanita. A photographs of that visit are at Annex A. Between 30 Aug and 7 Sep 07, the GoS air assets sustained bombing raids on the JEM and SLA (United) positions in Haskanita. The burden of the bombings on civilians led to demonstrations by approximately 1, 500 locals at the premises of the MGS Haskanita on 6 Sep 07. The demonstrators complained that AMIS was not doing enough to protect them from the GoS bombings. Please see Annex B for the photographs of the demonstrators. However, on 10 Sep 07, a full fledged battle for the control of Haskanita between the GoS forces and the 2 rebel factions erupted. At sunset, the JEM commander in company of his officers visited the MGS to demand the suspension of all AMIS flights to Haskanita. They equally pressed for the eviction of the GoS Rep, Capt Bashir whom they accused of availing GoS pilots with coordinates of their positions from the MGS. The suspension of AMIS flights to Haskanita affected the supply of life supporting materials to the MGS until the 12 Sep 07 when the order was lifted by the JEM Comd. The first AMIS flight into Haskanita was on 16 Sep 07.       

5. On 28 Sep 07, the JEM/SLA (United) forces were compelled to withdraw from their strong point at Delil Babkir (N11 55’ 0” E 25 50’ 0”) to Haskanita village following an unrelenting offensive by the GoS forces. Also, on 29 Oct 07, the GoS air assets subjected Haskanita village to heavy bombardment between 1100 – 1300 hrs. Unconfirmed reports stated that the rebel factions sustained huge casualties both in men and equipment. Besides, their hold on Haskanita since Jul 07 became untenable as a result of the momentum of the GoS offensive hence the need to withdraw. 

6. Comment. The set back suffered by the rebel factions probably induced the attack on MGS Haskanita for the purpose of replenishing their depleted logistic stocks. It is possible that the attack on the MGS was planned to coincide with their withdrawal from their untenable defensive position and at a period when the GoS air assets were off the sky. The pattern of the attack on the MGS and the subsequent actions of the rebel group is suggestive that logistic factor was the uppermost consideration in the attack. Items carted away include weapons, ammunitions, POL products, communication gadgets, food, beds, mattresses and 17 vehicles. The facts deduced above could aptly support the belief that the true intention of the attackers was to replenish their logistic stock from the MGS to enhance their withdrawal from Haskanita.

7. The timing (1930 hrs) of the attack on the MGS Haskanita was very auspicious in the sense that it coincided with the rites of breaking the Ramadan Fast. The well coordinated attack targeted all known gun positions, radio room, APCs and areas like the mosque where the MGS personnel were likely to concentrate. The radio room was completely destroyed with a 106 mm projectile in the first few minutes of the attack. One out of the 2 radio men was instantly killed and communication via the HF sets was severed. The picture of the remains of the radio room after the attack is at Annex C. The RPG fired into the mosque ignited fire setting the mosque ablaze. The picture of the mosque is at Annex D. The highly mobile attackers aboard estimated 30 vehicles overwhelmed the not so organized resistance of the PF.   

8. Efforts to manoeuvre the APCs into firing positions met barrages of the attackers AA guns (12.5mm) used in an infantry role at close proximity. One of the APC gunners who responded with a burst of fire was killed right inside the APC. Two others, a gunner and a driver who were accosted in their vehicle (APC) were shot and wounded on the abdomen and shoulder respectively before the APC was set ablaze.  The Coy Comd, a lieutenant, lost contact with his Pl Comds and men because virtually all but one Hand Held Radio (HHR) was in the possession of the attackers. Moreso, he became causality from RPG shrapnel few minutes after the attack commenced. A few PF mustered at the west end of the camp to offer resistance, but could hardly fire for fear of hitting MILOBs, CIVPOL and other allied staff. Having subdued the resistance of the PF the attackers employed the services of some allied staff to either identify a key officer, or aid the removal of vital materials/equipment. The occupation of the MGS lasted till 300400 C Oct 07, when the rebels commenced their withdrawal. 

9. At about 300730C Sep 07, when the few hapless PF, MILOBs and CIVPOL personnel who refused to abandon the camp started recovering the dead and wounded, villagers emerged from all directions to commence the looting of the camp property. By 1100 hrs, a convoy of GoS forces were sighted at about 600m away, but no contact was made with the MGS until at about 1545 hrs. Thereafter, the AMIS rescue team which included the FC arrived MGS Haskanita at about 1630 hrs.     

10. Comment. Without seeking to apportion blame, it is quiet clear that the PF were taken by surprise. There is equally no doubt that the leadership lost his command at the burst of the first wave of attack due to lack of communication. The CO and the Sector Headquarters equally lost communication links with the PF after the radio room was bombed out. The MGS had only one serviceable Thuraya Phone set at the time of the attack in the possession of the MILOB Ops Officer, thus limiting the ability of the Coy Comd to reach out to his CO/Sector Headquarters at El Daein, 93 kms away for possible reinforcement. The Ops Officer on the other hand, could hardly use the phone to communicate because he was surrounded by the attackers. After the attack, communications could still not be established with Haskanita because the Thuraya set had lost its battery charges and the power source in the camp had been vandalized by the attackers. This vital break in communication contributed immensely to the conflicting and in some cases unreliable information that emerged during and immediately after the attack.

11. Despite denials by the rebel factions suspected to have carried out the attack, there is evidence that suggest the complicity of some of the factions. Also, some rebel leaders who acted in such a way that is perhaps indicative of their role in the attack are discussed. For a fact, the claims by JEM to having withdrawn from Haskanita to a New Main Position (NMP), 25 km away, 4 days before the attack does not appear plausible. Eyewitness accounts of the MILOBs, PF, Language Assistants, PAE Manager and his staff confirmed that the vehicles used by the attackers bore the bold insignia of JEM. Also, past interactions of the MGS with SLA (United) operatives in Haskanita indicate that the faction does not possess the number of vehicles used for the attack. See Annex E for photographs of JEM vehicle in Haskanita.  

12. Furthermore, the MGS and PF Comds made phone contacts with both JEM and SLA (United) Comds a day before the attack to seek permission for the AMIS re-supply flight to land in Haskanita. The testimony of the PF Comd also revealed that both rebel commanders were irritated by the request because they claimed AMIS was supporting the cause of the GoS. Beyond these facts, the eyewitnesses were unanimous in their statements that the assault on the MGS was led by SLA (United) commander, Mohammed Osman. The security checks conducted on his profile revealed that Osman was once the SLA (M) Rep in the MGS.  The profiles of some of the suspected main actors in the attack on MGS Haskanita are detailed below:  
a. Abdulaziz Nur Osher. He is in his late forties and speaks both English and French fluently.  He holds the positions of Commander JEM, Eastern Command and Deputy Political Leader. His firm grip on JEM forces in Haskanita was never in doubt during his 2 visits to the MGS on 27 Aug and 10 Sep 07. He was responsible for suspending AMIS flights to Haskanita on 10 Sep 07. Osher’s fluency in French language is indicative of his Chadian connections. A high probability exist that he authorized the attack on MGS Haskanita. His recent photograph is at Annex F.                 

b. Abdulrahaman Ton Fadul. The suspect who is in his mid forties is a field commander with direct control over the JEM forces. He is short tempered and exhibited the traits when he threatened to attack the MGS if they accommodate GoS causalities during the battle for Haskanita on 10 Sep 07. He speaks both English and French fluently. His recent photograph is at Annex G.

c. Mohammed Osman. Mohammed Osman, a former SLA (M) Rep at the MGS Haskanita is in his early forties and currently the leader of SLA (United), Haskanita. Eyewitnesses have so far attested that he personally led the attack on MGS Haskanita. A group photograph he appeared in with other party reps disappeared from the MGS office after the attack. Ironically, he sounded remorseful for the attack in 2 unsolicited phone calls to the MGS commander from yet to be determined location.
13. Quite a lot of issues have also been raised over the actions or inactions of some of the allied staff as it relate to aiding the cause of the attackers. One Mr Khalid of the PAE was particularly accused of being in possession of firearms during the attack, while a Language Assistant was reported to have joined the rebels during their withdrawal. The Language Assistant has since been found and debriefed. Investigations could not adduce any evidence to support the claims. It is however possible that some of them acted under duress.   

14. Comment. Although the attack was led by Mohammed Osman of the SLA (United), JEM can hardly explain why their vehicles were employed for the attack. Also, JEM is being economical with the truth in their claims to have withdrawn from Haskanita before the clash with GoS forces on 28/29 Sep 07. Indeed, SLA (United) does not have the capacity to encounter GoS forces without assistance from the senior partner (JEM). JEM’s control of Haskanita was evident when they unilaterally imposed and later lifted flight ban on AMIS to Haskanita. However, it could also be that JEM used the smaller SLA (United) to perpetrate the attack to avoid being directly linked to the crime. A comparable situation manifested when the locals demonstrated on 6 Sep 07. The Umda while on a visit to the MGS on 24 Sep 07, apologized for the actions of his people and further stated that the demonstration was instigated by the JEM/SLA (United).      
15. The following facts emerged after the investigations:
a. The movement of JEM combatants from Tine Chad into Sudan probably constituted a remote cause of the attack on MGS Haskanita.  

b. The attack on JEM/SLA (United) strong hold at Delil Babkir on 28 Sep 07, and further air bombardment on 29 Oct 07 by the GoS probably constitute the immediate cause of the attack on MGS Haskanita. 

c. The probable intention of the attackers was to replenish their depleted logistic stock.

d. The attack was led by Mohammed Osman of SLA (United).

e. Mohammed Osman was identified as a former rep of SLA (M) in MGS Haskanita. 

f. The vehicles used during the attack had the insignia of JEM. 

g. The PF were taken by surprise leading to loss of command and control.

h. The destruction of the radio room by the attackers severed communication links with the CO NIBATT 11 and the Sector Headquarters.

i. The Coy Comd’s Thuraya Phone set was unserviceable at the time of the attack.

j. The entire MGS Haskanita had only one serviceable Thuraya Phone before the attack.

k. The loss of communication resulted in the conflicting and unreliable information that emerged after the attack.

l. The GoS forces made contact with MGS Haskanita at about 1545 hrs on 30 Oct 07.

m. Out of 4 x MILOBs, 1 x CIVPOL and 1 x 42 PF personnel declared MIA vide Reference B, only one is yet to be found as at the time of this report.

16. Without any doubt, incessant clashes involving the various belligerents including signatories to the DPA violates the peace agreement, and potentially threatens the AMIS peace efforts. Perhaps the fatal attack on MGS Haskanita could have been avoided if the JEM combatants did not move from Chad into Sudan on yet to be ascertained mission. Also, the mere fact that no identified recalcitrant leader of the factions has been openly indicted or brought to justice for violating the DPA/ceasefire tend to encourage non compliance to agreed decisions. It follows therefore that peace will hardly be achieved if perpetrators of dastardly acts against civilians and peace keepers were not brought to book. It is also the opinion of this report that apprehending the perpetrators of the attack on MGS Haskanita would be made easier if the consent and cooperation of the Chadian Government is sought.  

17. The fatal attack on MGS Haskanita on 29/30 Sep 07, has been attributed to the movement of JEM combatants from Chad into Sudan, and the fight involving the GoS forces with JEM/SLA (United). The intention of the attackers was to replenish their depleted logistic. While SLA (United) leader led the attack, JEM vehicles were used in the attack. The complicity of some of the allied staff in the attack could not be determined.     

18. The following lessons could be drawn from the attack on MGS Haskanita by factions to the Darfur conflict:
    a. AMIS camps and other facilities are not insulated from attacks by any of the aggrieved parties to the Darfur conflict hence the need to be alert and prepared at all times.

b. The rebel factions to the Darfur conflict have superior weapon types and fire power compared to the PF hence the need to increase the strength of the PF and firepower capabilities.

c. The layout of AMIS camps are restrictive and compact with little or no room for a tactical manoeuvre when under attack. It is aptly impossible to defend the camps from within, therefore perimeter fencing should be such that limits intruders or the unauthorized and provide for fire positions within the outer perimeter. 

d. The accommodation of national staff including reps of the belligerent groups in AMIS camps negates all security considerations because of their varying interest in the conflict hence they should be made to stay outside the camps.

e. The communication assets available to AMIS are inadequate and not effective. Therefore, there is the need for better and more reliable communication gadgets.    

g. Identified factions and persons who have been indicted for ceasefire violation have never been sanctioned thus encouraging recalcitrance on their part and imitations from others. There is the need to bring such people to face the law.  

SO2 Int/Sy


A. Photograph of JEM Comd visit to MGS Haskanita on 27 
Aug 07     -  1 Copy

B. Photograph of Demonstration by the Locals in Haskanita on 6 Sep 07 -  “

C. Photograph of Destroyed Radio Room - “

D. Photograph of the Burnt Mosque - “
E. Photograph of JEM Vehicles in Haskanita - “

F. Photograph of Abdulaziz Nur Osher - “

G. Photograph of Abdulrahaman Ton Fadul - “