Sunday, March 16, 2014

Sudan: Gov. of North Darfur Survives Assassination Attempt, Casualties Unknown

According to AFP, the governor of Sudan's troubled North Darfur state survived an assassination attempt on Saturday (March 15) after visiting a town briefly seized by rebels. 

"He's OK," AFP reported after the Saturday attack against North Darfur governor Osman Kbir, which was the latest sign of instability in the region.

The ambush occurred while Kbir was returning to the state capital of El Fasher after assessing the situation in Mellit, more than 50 kilometers (30 miles) north.

COMMENT: No group has of yet claimed responsibility for the unsuccessful assassination.

The state-linked Sudanese Media Center (SMC) reported that Kbir, accompanied by a legislative and security delegation, had visited the area, but the report made no mention of an attack.

The official SUNA news agency on Saturday quoted Kbir as saying Mellit was "fully under control of the armed forces" following the attack by insurgents. Apparently that was an erroneous statement.

Minni Minnawi, who heads a faction of the rebel Sudan Liberation Army, told AFP on Thursday (March 13) that his forces had captured the town.

It was the fourth major outbreak of violence in Darfur since late February, with rebels attacking an area in the southeast and another uprising erupting in the far west, where local sources said militia loyal to Musa Hilal took control of Saraf Omra.

Even before the assassination attempt in Mellit, some 115,000 people had been displaced by violence in North Darfur and in South Darfur, according to the United Nations.

International peacekeepers said "a number of military and civilian casualties" were reported after last week's attack against a Sudanese military base in Mellit.

The African Union-United Nations Mission in Darfur (UNAMID), which has a base outside Mellit, said it treated several victims, one of whom died from injuries.

What is not known is the number of casualties stemming from the assassination attempt from in terms of Kbir's security detail and those conducting the ambush.

Christopher Cycmanick, UNAMID's acting spokesman, told AFP on Sunday that the mission has "repeatedly attempted to access Mellit town and has been denied access."

Over the past two years, Sudan's deteriorating economy has led to worsening crime and inter-communal tribal clashes, a February report by UN chief Ban Ki-moon said.