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Darfur Militia Chief Arrested

Musa Hilal (C), the leader of the Arab Mahamid tribe in Darfur, salutes his followers upon his arrival in Nyala, the capital of South Darfur state, Dec. 7, 2013.

Counter-insurgency forces in Sudan arrested one of the top militia chiefs in North Darfur, who the United Nations accuses of committing numerous human rights violations. Musa Hilal, a former aide to President Omar al-Bashir, was taken into custody in his hometown of Mustariaha in North Darfur state, along with his son Habeeb according to officials.

The government announced a Monday press conference about Hilal’s arrest but later cancelled the event at the airport, offering no explanation.

State Minister of Defense Lt. General Ali Mohamed Salem told parliament on Monday that Hilal and his son were arrested “after clashes in the area but the security situation there is now stable,” and that Hilal and his son were being taken to Khartoum.

RSF said it lost ten members, including a commander in the clashes.

Nyamot Ahmadi, founder of the Darfur Women’s Action Group, said both RSF and Hilal’s forces have committed human rights abuses against the people of Darfur, and RSF only arrested Hilal because of pressure from the international community.

“This goes back to the original crisis in Darfur when the government of Sudan initially used the Arab indigenous against the Africans, and now that most of Darfur has been destroyed, over three million people have been in camps, the government of Sudan has come under scrutiny by the international community, there has been a lot of pressure on them, including the recent lifting of sanctions by the United States.”

Ahmadi said the government wants to show the international community it is committed to improving the situation. But she said the people view it as “what goes around comes around because Hilal is a criminal who committed genocide on the people of Darfur.”

A Sudanese journalist who works for a English-speaking newspaper in Khartoum but prefers not to be identified for safety reasons said the government had a sense that ongoing fighting with Hilal’s forces had become a serious issue in Sudan and something needed to be done. Hilal’s fighters, who are from the Arab Mahamid tribe, have repeatedly clashed with RSF troops in recent months, even though the leader of the RSF is from the same tribe as Hilal’s.

He said RSF troops were sent to collect arms from Darfur and North Darfur, but Hilal refused to hand over his weapons.

Ahmadi and the journalist both said Hilal was back in Mustariaha because his mother died last week and he was in yoen yo receive condolences from friends and relatives ahead of her funeral. RSF forces moved into the town Sunday to arrest Hilal when clashes broke out between RSF forces and Hilal’s fighters.