A nomad from the outskirts of Kutum said to be involved in the Hashaba attacks, Ahmed Eid Idriss, said in an interview with Radio Dabanga that he believes there are four main reasons behind the attack on Hashaba and the gold mining areas in North Darfur last month, which reportedly killed more than 100 people.
Ahmed told Radio Dabanga in an interview on Thursday October 25, that “the first reason is gold; the rebels deny access to whoever is searching for gold in the area.” He said that the second reason is a retaliation attack against rebels, Yousef Nourein, commander general of Sudan's Liberation Movement-Unity (SLM-U), who were accused of killing a number of 51 camels about one month ago.
The third reason, Ahmed continued, is the killing of 13-year old shepherd, Hassan Musa. The young shepherd was killed along with the camels in the Iddalzala area. The fourth and last reason, he explained, is the continuous stealing of livestock.
He confirmed to Radio Dabanga that after the rebels killed their camels, 450 armed men on camels and horses attacked Hashaba and the gold mining areas. Rebel leaders Yousef Nourein and Yaseen Musa Shaib were killed during the attack.
He stated that the attack was an 'act of self-defense' responding to the killings; for the ‘sake’ of the camels.
In response to a question about the airstrikes that accompanied the attack on Hashaba, Ahmed denied any affiliation: “we have nothing to do with the government, we moved to Hashaba, responded to the attack and then we returned.” In addition, he denied the movement carried out the attack on a UNAMID convoy, which was ambushed on its way to Hashaba to investigate the incidents. Instead, he accused groups he called “unruly outlaws” of being behind the attack.
When asked about the attack on workers in the gold mines and markets and the killings, he replied that “By God, we didn't know they were all blacks" and "those who attacked us, drew a line between us and the gold, we decided to attack them so that they could not reach the gold.”
He said they retaliated after seeing their camel skins, heads and meat on offer in those markets, so they attacked them. He added: “we would rather see ten of our people killed than to see our camels killed” and added “we are ready to sacrifice 150 people for one camel.”
ASG Mulet: ‘dispute over land access escalated’
The assistant Secretary-General for peacekeeping (ASG), Edmond Mulet, briefed the Council on his latest report on the African Union – United Mission in Darfur (UNAMID) on Wednesday October 24.
About the incidents in Hashaba he said that “the information collected by (UNAMID) patrols and other interlocutors indicates that on September 20 a dispute over land access between nomadic camel herders and sedentary farmers reportedly escalated when Sudan Liberation Movement (SLM Minni Minawi and Unity) elements apparently killed a large number of the nomads’ camels.”
Mulet continued that “five days later, on September 25, the Hashaba area and nearby gold mines controlled by some of the armed movements, were attacked by armed militia.” He added that sources also reported aerial bombing of the mining areas by the Sudanese Armed Forces.
The assistant Secretary-General stated that the number of civilian casualties ranges from 27 to 100, despite claims made by Sudan's Liberation Army elements that most of the town’s inhabitants, except for the gold miners, had fled before the assault.
The risk of heavy clashes between militia and armed movement forces and movement restrictions on the grounds of insecurity prevented UNAMID patrols to return to Hashaba between October 4 and 16, Mulet added. On October 17, a UNAMID patrol on its way from Kutum to Hashaba was ambushed by unidentified armed assailants, killing one peacekeeper and injuring three others.
The patrol was on its way to Hashaba with the specific purpose of building a comprehensive assessment of the facts around the attack on September 25, the assistant Secretary-General added.
On the same topic, Radio Dabanga reported on September 25 that a series of clashes in Hashaba between government troops and rebel movements left dozens dead and injured on September 20. Witnesses reported that on the same day the Sudanese Air Forces carried out airstrikes on the area of Hashaba, after which border guards stormed the town.
In the same week, Radio Dabanga reported that Hashaba was hit by an aerial attack carried out by fighter helicopters. According to SLM-Abdullah Yahya, more than 40 people were killed as a result of the airstrike, while other reports mention several fatal victims.