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Darfur War Crimes Suspect At Scene Of Fresh Crimes: HRW

The Human Rights Watch(HRW) has alleged that a Sudanese commander wanted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) led or participated in deadly attacks on ethnic Salamat communities in Central Darfur in April.

The attackers appeared to include government forces using government weapons and equipment, HRW reported on Monday, quoting witnesses.

Ali Kosheib, a former militia leader now in a high-ranking post with the auxiliary Central Reserve Police, faces a 2007 arrest warrant by the ICC for crimes against humanity and war crimes in West Darfur in 2003 and 2004. Although Sudanese authorities detained Kosheib, a pseudonym for Ali Mohammed Ali, in 2007 on unrelated charges and again in 2008, they released him for lack of evidence.

The U.N. Security Council is to be briefed by the ICC prosecutor on June 5. HRW urged the Council to call on Sudan to surrender Kosheib to the ICC immediately.

"Witnesses place Ali Kosheib at the scene of recent killing, burning, and looting in Darfur," said Daniel Bekele, Africa director at HRW. He warned that "allowing fugitives to remain at liberty can have a devastating price."

HRW interviewed more than 30 people, including refugees who fled the fighting, at the Chadian border in May.

Since early April, heavily armed members of the Misseriya and Ta'isha ethnic groups have conducted attacks on ethnic Salamat communities in and around Um Dukhun, Central Darfur. These attacks have killed more than 100 civilians, injured scores more, burned and destroyed property, and displaced tens of thousands of people. The fighting has since spread to South Darfur and has caused additional civilian deaths and destruction, which HRW has not been able to document.

Witnesses placed Kosheib at the scene of an attack on the town of Abu Jeradil, 30 kilometers south of Um Dukhun, on April 8, riding in a government vehicle. They told HRW that large numbers of heavily armed men, most wearing khaki uniforms, arrived in two phases, first on foot and then in vehicles. They shot indiscriminately, burned homes and shops, stole livestock, and looted goods.

Salamat men told HRW they fought back using rifles but were far outnumbered and outgunned by the attackers, whom they identified as members of the Central Reserve Police, Border Intelligence, and militia. They said the attackers drove in a convoy of government land cruisers and were armed with rockets, anti-aircraft weapons, rocket propelled grenades, and other weapons. HRW could not independently verify these descriptions.

As a result of the recent fighting and attacks, tens of thousands of people have been forced to flee the area, HRW said. More than 30,000 refugees, mostly women and children, crossed into Chad, where they are living in dire conditions amid the onset of the rainy season.

The Sudanese government has repeatedly downplayed its responsibility for the Darfur violence, saying it does not have the capacity to control inter-ethnic fighting. Inter-ethnic conflict over land and other resources has intensified in 2013, displacing more than 170,000 people in Darfur and Chad, according to U.N. estimates.

by RTT Staff Writer

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