Khartoum - Sudan's powerful intelligence service has filed a criminal complaint against the leader of a major opposition party, disputing claims a counter-insurgency unit looted, raped and committed arson, reports said Tuesday.
The National Intelligence and Security Service laid the complaint against Umma party leader Sadiq al-Mahdi over comments made about the Rapid Support Forces at a news conference last week, according to identical newspaper reports.
Newspapers said NISS accuses Mahdi of releasing false information about the RSF, including claims that it has “non-Sudanese” in its ranks.
The agency, which has authority over the RSF, accuses Mahdi of distorting the image of the forces, threatening public peace, undermining the prestige of the state and inciting the international community against Sudan, the reports said.
In a statement, Mahdi said he had read the “false allegations” sent by NISS to the media but he stands by his call for justice over what happened in Darfur.
Mohamed bin Chambas, head of the African Union-UN peacekeeping mission in Darfur (UNAMID), told the UN Security Council more than a month ago that the activities of the RSF were of “particular concern” as violence rose to alarming levels in Darfur this year.
“They have perpetrated attacks on communities,” Chambas said.
President Omar al-Bashir's chief assistant, Ibrahim Ghandour, has dismissed as “nonsense” suggestions government-linked forces were behind the violence.
He said the RSF are a component of the Sudan Armed Forces and were tasked with preventing rebels from capturing major communities in Darfur.
The complaint by NISS against Mahdi comes as his party and others engage in a “national dialogue” with Bashir.
A senior opposition politician has told AFP the process might lead to a new, coalition government and that Bashir is pushing for “a real change” because he realises the country is “collapsing”.
The security service is resisting the dialogue process, the politician said.
Along with the RSF, rebel offensives, criminal activity and inter-communal fighting over access to resources also contributed to unrest in Darfur this year, Chambas has said.
Although the violence has declined lately, a surge from the end of February displaced about 290,000 people, the United Nations said.
The unrest and displacement evoked comparisons with the early stages of the Darfur war which shocked the world a decade ago.
Diplomatic and humanitarian sources have told AFP that, by burning villages, the attackers appear to have engaged in a counter-insurgency tactic that aims to deprive rebels of a potential support base.
“It's quite brazen what they're doing,” a Western diplomat said.
Non-Arab rebels rose up in Darfur in 2003, seeking an end to what they viewed as Arab elites' domination of Sudan's power and wealth.
In response, government-backed Janjaweed militiamen, recruited among the region's Arab tribes, shocked the world with atrocities against civilians.
The conflict has left about two million people displaced.
Bashir and Defence Minister Abdelrahim Mohammed Hussein are both wanted by the Hague-based International Criminal Court for alleged war crimes in Darfur.