PRO-GOVERNMENT WARLORD LAUNCHES ATTACK IN SOUTH SUDAN’S OIL-RICH MALAKAL REGION
Fierce fighting broke out last week in the oil-rich region in and around Malakal, the capital of Sudan’s Upper Nile State, after a government-sponsored militia leader made an unexpected return to the city, where he is wanted by local authorities for his role in a violent episode in 2006 that left 150 people dead.
Major General Gabriel Tanginya (a.k.a. Gabriel Gatwech Chan) led a pro-government militia in the 1983-2005 North-South Civil War. Following the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA), Tanginya and his forces were integrated into the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF), with the militia leader being rewarded with the inflated rank of Major General. Bloody clashes with the Sudanese Peoples Liberation Army (SPLA) in 2006 led to the withdrawal of Tanginya and his militia to Khartoum, where they have remained since. His surprise return to Malakal on February 23 was seen by some southern politicians as a provocation designed to reignite the civil war (AFP, February 27; Sudan Tribune, February 26). The Government of South Sudan (GoSS) claims Tanginya was met in Malakal by members of the SAF’s military intelligence. Peacekeepers belonging to the United Nations Mission in Sudan (UNMIS) asked Tanginya to leave shortly after his return to Malakal, but the militia leader refused.
Fighting erupted after the SPLA tried to arrest Tanginya on an outstanding warrant issued by the GoSS. Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) units belonging to the Joint Integrated Units (JIU) formed from SPLA and government forces after the 2005 peace treaty joined in the defense of Tanginya against their former JIU comrades. Troops of the SPLA’s 7th Division under the command of Major General Majier Amel pounded the SAF units and Tanginya’s militia with artillery and tank-fire, driving these forces towards the Malakal airport (New Sudan Vision, February 25). Fighting also spread to the Faluj oil field north of Malakal, where the GoSS reported clashes between Khartoum’s “petroleum police” and villagers in a number of places inside the oil-producing zones.
The fighting came to an end with the dispatch from Khartoum of a delegation led by Government of South Sudan (GoSS) Vice President Dr. Riek Machar, a controversial figure who led his own Nuer-based pro-government militia against the SPLA during the Civil War. Machar ordered Tanginya to return to Khartoum and UN officials urged the JIU to “demonstrate tolerance and uphold their professional obligations” (Sudan Tribune, February 27). The death toll in Malakal included 26 civilians, 15 soldiers of the SPLA, and 16 soldiers of the SAF. 84 soldiers and civilians were wounded (Sudan Tribune, February 27).
Malakal was the scene of tribal violence earlier this year when a dispute between the Chollo Shilluk and the Ngok Dinka over who should enter a local stadium first for a celebration of the fourth anniversary of the CPA turned violent. Nine people were killed and 90 injured by the fighting and police gunfire. Shortly thereafter as many as 12 people in the nearby village of Nagdiar were killed in an attack and two other villages burned to the ground (Miraya FM [Juba], January 25). Malakal lies in land traditionally claimed by the Chollo Shilluk. The Ngok Dinka arrived in the area in 1818, leading to disputes over land ownership (Khartoum Monitor, January 16). The Dinka are the most powerful tribe in the SPLA. The arrival of General Tanginya in Malakal may have been an attempt to exploit this dispute to create further divisions between the Shilluk and the Dinka in the lead-up to the 2011 referendum on Southern independence.
The fighting also demonstrated the fragility of the JIU, which broke into North-South factions as soon as the fighting began. Though it has always been difficult to find anyone with much confidence in the joint infantry units, there was still some hope they might provide a template for a combined national army if the South votes for unity with the north in the upcoming referendum.
In 2006 SPLA forces in Malakal clashed with Tanginya’s second-in-command, Mabor Dhol, after the latter refused orders to leave Malakal. 150 people were killed in the consequent fighting and a warrant was issued for Tanginya’s arrest. GoSS Minister of Information Gabriel Changson Chang said, “We must stress that any attempt to evacuate or protect Tanginya and his accomplices will constitute a crime of harboring and aiding criminals” (Sudan Tribune, February 26). In response, Riek Machar described the arrest procedure as “a complicated matter:” “There is nobody that would arrest a Major General in the Sudan Armed Forces, except the command of the SAF, which I don’t belong to” (Sudan Tribune, March 1).
EGYPTIAN ISLAMIST HANI AL-SIBA’I EVALUATES THE STATE OF JIHAD IN SOMALIA AND GAZA
On February 7, Egyptian Islamist and al-Qaeda supporter Dr. Hani al-Siba’i gave an interview on Al-Ansar Pal Talk in which he evaluated the present state of the global jihad, including observations on the situations in Somalia, Gaza, and the Arabian Peninsula. The four-and-a-half-hour interview was open to forum members who communicated with al-Siba’i through a moderator.
Al-Siba’i is on both the UN and U.S. lists of designated supporters of terrorism for his association with al-Qaeda and other extremist groups. An Egyptian national, al-Siba’i lives in London, where he has claimed political refugee status (he describes himself as “a prisoner in a Western country”). Formerly a leading member of Egypt’s Islamic Jihad (IJ) organization, al-Siba’i was sentenced to 15 years imprisonment after being tried in absentia in Egypt. In London he is the founder and director of the Almaqreze Center for Historical Studies.
During the interview, al-Siba’i denounced the new Somali government led by Shaykh Sharif Shaykh Ahmad, the former chairman of the Islamic Courts Union (ICU). Suggesting that the new President had been “brainwashed by the Americans” (presumably during his brief detention by American security forces in Kenya in early 2007), al-Siba’i describes Shaykh Sharif as being like “Karzai in Afghanistan,” an American agent brought in to create sedition in the ranks of the mujahideen. He rejects the advice of Egyptian-born Shaykh Yusuf al-Qaradawi (a prominent and influential Qatar-based member of the Muslim Brothers) for Somali Muslims to rally behind the new president: “[his] recommendations are invalid because he is tainted.”
Al-Siba’i condemns the emergence of new armed Islamist groups in Somalia (such as Dr. Omar Iman Abubakr’s Islamic Party coalition) as unnecessary and the product of Eritrea’s intelligence services, warning that “this new Islamic Party, if it persists on continuing in its dealings, the Mujahideen Youth Movement [al-Shabaab] will be forced to fight it.” He describes America’s concern with Islamism in Somalia as being based on the country’s proximity to the Middle East (“unlike Afghanistan”).
According to al-Siba’i, it is not necessary to have al-Shabaab make a formal declaration of unity with al-Qaeda “because an alliance already exists.” Joint operations between the two groups “should be carefully planned and studied in order not to make mistakes that would have a long-lasting effect.” He fears “an organized international media campaign that will defame and distort the Mujahidin Youth Movement and portray them as killers and scoundrels and nothing but al-Qaeda affiliates.”
The unification of al-Qaeda forces in the Arabian Peninsula under escaped Yemeni terrorist Nasir al-Wuhayshi is described as a great blow to the Saudi regime that will help “keep the idea of expelling the Crusaders from the Arabian Peninsula and the rest of the Muslim world alive.” The union will “cause the Americans to re-evaluate their positions once again after believing that they were successful in expelling, weakening, and breaking [al-Qaeda].” Al-Siba’i warns that Saudi Arabian and Yemeni intelligence services will collaborate to bribe various tribes and recruit young people to infiltrate al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.
Turning to Hamas, al-Siba’i describes the movement as “useless,” condemning it as an affiliate of the Muslim Brothers composed of “mercenaries and traitors.” He ridicules anyone who suggests the Israeli assault on Gaza was a victory for Hamas; “Hamas is in a phase of bankruptcy and what happened was not a victory.” Al-Siba’i describes the evolution of Hamas into a political party as “theological perversion” counter to Islam.
Al-Siba’i also discusses his own opponents in the Islamist community, some of whom have accused him of being a secret Shiite or an agent of Scotland Yard. In closing, al-Siba’i complains of his impending deportation order from the UK, denying he is a “threat to national security.” According to his “Christian lawyer,” British authorities intend to “make his life hell.”