Home | News    Monday 5 February 2007

US warns of security threat against Westerners in Sudan

Feb 5, 2007 (KHARTOUM) — The U.S. Embassy confirmed Monday it had warned Americans of a heightened terrorist threat against Westerners in Sudan.

"The U.S. Embassy advises all U.S. citizens in Sudan that the United Nations mission in Sudan has received new information that an extremist group based in the country is likely to target Western interests," said the warden message, which was reported in the local press last week.

The U.S. message followed a similar warning that the United Nations sent its staff in Sudan last week, said a U.N. official, who spoke on condition of anonymity as he was not allowed to discuss the issue with the media.

"Given the focus of extremists on the U.N. presence in Sudan, it is possible that the primary target of this threat is the UN," said the warden message, which listed possible threats as bombings, kidnappings and assassinations. But, the message added, "terrorists do not distinguish between official and civilian targets."

U.S. Embassy spokesman Joel Maybury said the warning was standard procedure for such a threat.

"In places like Sudan, where you have instability and conflict, we may have half a dozen such messages a year," said Maybury.

He added there was a "perceived unhappiness" against the United Nations mission in Sudan, which is promoting the peace process in the south of the country as well as running humanitarian operations in the conflict-ridden region of Darfur, western Sudan.

The United Nations says it has 10,000 peacekeeping troops in southern Sudan, and about 2,500 civilian staff in the whole country. About 1,000 civilian personnel are based in Khartoum.

U.N. spokeswoman Radhia Achouri declined to comment on the U.N.’s warning, describing it an internal security issue.

But another U.N. official in Sudan said the warning stemmed from the tense situation in Darfur, where fighting has escalated in recent months.

"There is a security threat at the moment, that’s obvious," said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity as he was not permitted to talk to the media. "We just don’t know how bad it really is."

The United Nations and Western powers have been pressing the government to allow U.N. peacekeepers to deploy in Darfur, where more than 200,000 people have been killed in four years of fighting between local rebels and government forces.

But the government has rejected this pressure, saying the U.N. troops would be neo-colonialists.

However, the government now appears to be edging toward permitting small numbers of U.N. forces to deploy in Darfur as part of the African Union peacekeeping mission in the region.