[dehai-news] (AFP): Darfur Rebel Chief Warns Sudan Not To Harm Civilians

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From: Berhane Habtemariam (Berhane.Habtemariam@gmx.de)
Date: Mon Mar 02 2009 - 12:01:30 EST

Darfur Rebel Chief Warns Sudan Not To Harm Civilians


Monday March 2nd, 2009 / 14h38






KHARTOUM, Sudan (AFP)--The head of Darfur's most active rebel group warned
the Sudan government Monday against harming civilians, days ahead of an
expected international court decision on whether to issue an arrest warrant
for President Omar al-Bashir.
Khalil Ibrahim, leader of the rebel Justice and Equality Movement, or JEM,
said that his troops would retaliate if reprisals were taken against the
people of Darfur.
"If they harm civilians, JEM will react," Ibrahim said. "Even in Khartoum,
JEM is ready to protect the civilians - it is our historical
responsibility," he told AFP by telephone.
The International Criminal Court is expected to announce on Wednesday
whether it will issue a warrant for Bashir on charges of genocide, war
crimes and crimes against humanity in Darfur, scene of a six-year conflict
that has cost several hundred thousand lives.
Many Sudanese believe that formal charges against Bashir - which would be
the first ever issued against a sitting head of state - would plunge the
country into chaos.
Large protests against any warrant are expected in the capital Khartoum, but
Ibrahim said rival demonstrations supporting a warrant would also be
organized in Darfur itself.
"We are waiting the decision of ICC," Ibrahim said. "The government is ready
for demonstrations, but here in Darfur we also prepare demonstrations to
support ICC."
Government spokesman Kamal Obeid moved to reassure foreigners in Sudan that
they would be protected.
"There will be popular reaction, but the government will protect embassies,
diplomatic missions and all foreign civilians," he said.
According to the U.N., 300,000 people have died and more than 2.2 million
fled their homes since ethnic minority rebels in Darfur rose up against the
Arab-dominated Khartoum government in February 2003.
Ibrahim also said that many Arab fighters in Darfur known as the Janjaweed -
accused of being a proxy force for government forces - are now siding with
the rebels.
"The Arabs in Darfur are now with the JEM," he added, pouring scorn on
claims by militia commander Musa Hilal that he had 30,000 men ready to
The most heavily armed of the Darfur rebel groups, the JEM declined to sign
the 2006 peace deal inked only by the Sudan Liberation Army faction of Minni
Minawi and in May last year it launched an unprecedented assault on
However, last month JEM signed an accord with the Sudan government aimed at
paving the way for broader peace talks to end the conflict.
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