SUDAN WATCH: Gabriel Tang's militia clash with south Sudan army in Malakal

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Gabriel Tang's militia clash with south Sudan army in Malakal

"This (fighting) is because Tang arrived yesterday in Malakal. The U.N. tried to persuade him to leave but he refused," James Hoth told Reuters.

Source: Reuters report Tue Feb 24, 2009 JUBA, Sudan:
Militia clash with south Sudan army in Malakal:
South Sudan's army and militiamen traded heavy gunfire on Tuesday in the south Sudan town of Malakal, eyewitnesses and southern army officials said.

The fighting was between the southern army and members of a southern militia headed by Gabriel Tang, who was backed by Khartoum during Sudan's long civil war between the north and south, a senior commander from the south's army said.

"This (fighting) is because Tang arrived yesterday in Malakal. The U.N. tried to persuade him to leave but he refused," James Hoth told Reuters.

Hoth said the fighting had been heavy, but it was not yet known whether anyone had been killed or wounded.

Fighting between south Sudan's army and elements in Tang's militia killed 150 people in Malakal in 2006 and was a major threat to a fragile north-south peace deal signed in 2005.

A witness sheltering from gunfire said there had been two separate outbreaks of gunfire and explosions.

"There's been heavy shooting this morning from about 8 a.m. There have also been big explosions ... there are tanks on the streets," said the witness, who declined to be named.

After the 2006 fighting the south's President Salva Kiir issued an arrest warrant for Tang and he was barred from Malakal, Hoth said.

The southern army soldiers involved in the fighting are from a special joint unit of both northern and southern forces that control the south's towns and oil fields under the peace accord, Hoth said.

The northern army contingent contains former members of Tang's militia, Hoth said, but it is unclear whether they are involved in Tuesday's fighting.

Some 2 million people were killed in Sudan's north-south war and another 4 million displaced from their homes
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From Sudan Radio Service 24 February 2009:
(Malakal) - Fighting broke out between SPLA and SAF members of a Joint Integrated Unit (JIU) in Malakal on Tuesday morning.

An eye-witness, speaking to Sudan Radio Service by phone from Malakal, said the tension started on Monday afternoon, when a SAF commander, Gabriel Gatwiech Chan, popularly known as “Tanginye” arrived at the airport.

The fighting started after SAF members of the Malakal JIU refused to return Tanginye to Khartoum.

The SPLA contingent in the Malakal JIU is alleged to have insisted that Tanginye should not be allowed to stay in Malakal. They accused him of being behind 2006 clashes in which over 300 people were killed.

Sudan Radio Service producer Koang Pal Chang spoke to an eye-witness who declined to be identified.

[Interview]

Koang: When did the shooting start?

Eye-witness: the shooting started in the morning yesterday at 8 and the tension began yesterday in the afternoon hours when general Tanginye.... (gunfire) You may be hearing the sounds of the guns?

Koang: Yeah

Eye-witness: He came (Tanginye) yesterday to visit his family but he was told to go back to Khartoum but he refused to go back to Khartoum saying that he should not be forced to go back to Khartoum. He said he was coming to visit his family and his seven days are not over. According to information I got last night, he was taken to UNMIS where he spend the night. But there was information that he refused to go to UNMIS and the shooting began at 8 this morning. It is between SPLA and another group; I do not know which group is that. At 10:30 they have managed to push one group to the other side of the town. You can hear the shooting. There is fighting now in the heart of Malakal Town.

Koang: Do you know who are the groups that are fighting?

Eye-witness: I do not know but what I know is that it is the group of Tanginye and the SPLA fighting.

Koang: where are you now exactly in Malakal?

Eye-witness: I am now in Hai-Jalaba. I am in Malakal center now. These people are fighting next to the hospital, just here. I am even seeing them now.

Koang: Do you see which type of uniforms they are wearing?

Eye-witness: They are wearing khaki, some of them are wearing Hafiya, but I do not know. Maybe if I go closer, I can see the logo and know which group is that. But I can not see the logo now because they are a bit far.

Koang: what about the civilians, are they running away or hiding in their houses?

Eye-witness: Some of them have already hidden themselves, some of them ran away. The fighting began at the airport. So people thought the fighting was going to be handled at the airport but now it has reached the town and there is no room for evacuation now.

Koang: Was there a group which went and attacked the other group in the airport and then they were pushed back on this side or what is really happening?

Eye-witness: I can not tell whether this was the group which attacked or the attackers, but one group has been pushed to the heart of Malakal and that is why the fighting now advanced to the main town.

Koang: can you see UN peacekeepers there trying to protect civilian or you can not see them?

Eye-witness: I can not see them because this is actually a frontline they can not actually intervene.

(Line goes dead).

Unconfirmed reports suggest that 6 people have been killed, including a 14 year old boy. 16 others have been injured.
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From Sudan Tribune by Manyang Mayom 24 February 2009:
Heavy fighting in Malakal upon return of militia leader
February 24, 2009 (MALAKAL) — Heavy fighting broke up in Malakal, the capital of Upper Nile State, since today morning between the southern Sudan army and a Khartoum backed militia led by Gen. Gabriel Tang Ginya.

No causalities yet reported from the troubled town. However, three people are said to be wounded with no death as the fighting continues.

Following November 2006 clashes, the President of Southern Sudan government described Tang as criminal and asked Khartoum to hand him over to justice. But he had been transported to Khartoum by the Sudan Armed Forces.

The fighting started when the General Tang arrived yesterday to Malakal and refused to leave the town. Eyewitnesses told Sudan Tribune that some SPLA troops wanted to capture the Gen. Tang alive or else shot him. But, UNMIS tried to intervene to convince him to move out with no results.

"Gen. Tang was flown into Malakal yesterday from Khartoum by Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) and rushed to the SAF barracks and this morning attacked SPLA. This is part of the conspiracy by the National Congress Party to destabilize the South and in particular Upper Nile State," said Ezekiel Lol Gatkuoth in Washington, the Government of Southern Sudan Head of Mission to the United States.

Tang’s militia " pushed the SPLA a bit from Malakal town of Malaki but as of now they are pushed back the SAF forces to the Airport and the fighting is continuing. The situation is very bad and casualties are high from the SAF forces," he further said.

The situation is tense while most business houses remain closed and Malakal people are indoors.

Similar incidents occurred on November 27, 2006 when General Gabriel Tang and John Maluit the commissioner of Fangak had a fierce dispute over the commissionership of Malakal. 150 people were killed.
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From AFP February 24, 2009 (JUBA, Sudan)
UN staffer wounded as fighting erupts in south Sudan
A UN employee was wounded on Tuesday as clashes erupted in south Sudan around the former government garrison town of Malakal, puncturing a 2005 peace deal, the UN and former rebels said.

The fighting pitted former rebels of the Sudan People's Liberation Movement, which now runs an autonomous regional administration in south Sudan, against a southern former militia that fought alongside central government forces during the two-decade-long civil war, the ex-rebels said.

"There were clashes this morning, and the fighting has been on and off since then," said Changson Chang, now information minister in the south Sudan regional government.

He said the violence had been sparked by the return to Malakal of former militia leader, Gabriel Tang. "His militia triggered the fighting," Chang said.

A so-called Joint Integrated Unit (JIU) composed of both former rebels and forces loyal to the central government in Khartoum patrols Malakal alongside the main ex-rebel army which has been reconstituted as the security forces of the southern regional government.

Former militiamen loyal to Tang form part of the pro-Khartoum elements of the JIU, leading to the clashes between some fighters of the combined unit and the former rebels, sources on both sides said.

"Fighting broke out between the SPLA and JIU in the vicinity of the airport and Upper Nile University in Malakal," a UN statement said.

"One UN bus travelling from the logistics base was reported to have been fired upon, resulting in the injury to the foot of one UN national staff member," it said, adding that the staffer was in a stable condition in hospital.

The UN said that the clashes had now reportedly moved from the airport area to the town centre and peacekeepers were moving foreign aid workers away from compounds close to the fighting.

It added that reinforcements had been sent to the concentration points where aid workers and UN civilian staff were being given refuge.

The south Sudan information minister said he had no immediate word on any non-UN casualties from the fighting. "We do not have figures until now but, of course, when shots are fired, then there will be expected to be casualties," Chang said.

The UN special envoy to Sudan Ashraf Jehangir Qazi expressed "deep concern about the security situation in Malakal".

He "called on all parties to cease the fighting immediately, to act responsibly to resolve their differences, and to take full account of their duty to protect and ensure the safety and security of the civilian population," a statement said.

"In particular, he said it was essential for the military leadership of the Sudan Armed Forces and the SPLA to ensure that the JIUs fulfilled their function as integrated units working together to protect civilians."

Malakal lies close to the border between north and south, and has had one of the more fragile security situations since the 2005 peace deal brought an end to the civil war between the Arab- and Muslim-dominated north and the mainly Christian or animist, non-Arab south.

Nine people were killed around the town in inter-ethnic clashes on January 9.
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UPDATE ON THURSDAY 5 MARCH 2009

News report from Radio Netherlands 5 March 2009:
Dutch ambassador ready for any eventuality:
The Foreign Ministry has posted a more severe travel warning to Sudan now that the International Criminal Court in The Hague has issued an arrest warrant against the country's president. The ministry is advising Dutch citizens not to travel to the province of Darfur or the town of Malakal unless it is absolutely necessary.

There are currently around 250 Dutch citizens in Sudan, most of whom work for aid organisations or are connected to the United Nations or one of its missions. All 250 have been asked to report to the Dutch Embassy in Khartoum. The Dutch ambassador, Norbert Braakhuis, says that if the embassy knows where everyone is, it will be easier to provide help should it be needed.

He added that there are no indications that Dutch citizens run a particular risk because the International Criminal Court is located in The Hague. However, although he believes Sudan does not equate the court with the Netherlands and its citizens, he says he would like to be prepared for any eventuality.

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