Sudan Jihad Update from the Hizballah News Agency, aka Reuters: “Sudanese Islamists threaten to fight U.N. Darfur force”
KHARTOUM (Reuters) – Sudanese Islamist leaders say they will take up arms against United Nations peacekeepers if they deploy to Darfur, and some have warned they will also fight the Khartoum government if it agrees to the force.
The threats conjure up a disturbing image of more bloodshed in the western Darfur region, where tens of thousands of people have been killed in more than three years of conflict, described as “genocide” by the United States.
Despite Sudan’s objections, the United States and Britain have introduced a Security Council resolution that would deploy up to 17,000 troops and 3,000 police in Darfur, where an overstretched African Union force is monitoring a shaky truce.
Leaders of al Qaeda have called on Muslims to fight any U.N. force in Darfur and while the diplomatic wrangling continues, Khartoum’s many Islamic groups have delivered a clear message.
“We categorically refuse U.N. troops in Darfur,” said Abdel Wahhab Mohamed Ali Ahmed, head of the Sudanese higher council for the coordination of Islamic groups, formed last year.
“And if they come we will fight them until they leave.”
The council is composed of representatives from Sudan’s main Islamist movements, including Ansar al-Sunna and the Hizb ut-Tahrir group, outlawed in neighboring Egypt.
The U.N. force would take over from the 7,000 AU troops already in Darfur, who are short of cash and capabilities.
Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir has said he will personally lead the resistance to a U.N. force, comparing it to a western invasion to colonize Sudan.
This position has brought him closer to Islamist leaders, who in the past have differed with Bashir over how sharia, or Islamic law, is implemented in Sudan.
About 70 percent of Sudan’s 36 million people are Muslim. One of the catalysts for a separate two decade-long civil war between the mostly Christian and animist south and the Islamist government in Khartoum was the imposition of sharia in 1983.
“The colonialists have united all the Muslim groups in Sudan … and we support the government in this position,” said Ahmed Malik, another member of the higher council.
Critics of Bashir’s government say it fears U.N. troops may be used to arrest officials likely to be indicted by the International Criminal Court investigating alleged war crimes.
They point to the fact that under a January 2005 deal to end the separate north-south conflict Khartoum invited more than 10,000 U.N. troops to deploy in the country.
Islamist leaders say they oppose even those troops, calling the United Nations a front for U.S. imperialism. “We are an equal member of the African Union but in the United Nations one country, the United States, continuously uses its veto to force the world to follow its agenda,” said Ahmed.
University professor and respected Islamist preacher Sadiq al-Hajj Abu Dafirah said any U.N. troops had to be given the choice to convert to Islam or leave the country.