- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 22, 2008

KHARTOUM, Sudan (AP) — The suspected head of a Sudanese militia accused of murder, rape and other atrocities in Darfur has been given a senior government post, the Sudanese government confirmed yesterday. President Omar al-Bashir dismissed accusations against the man as untrue.

Musa Hilal, the purported leader of the Janjaweed militias, was named adviser to Sudan’s Ministry of Federal Affairs last week, Sudanese press reported yesterday. The ministry manages the central government’s relations with the outlying provinces in Africa’s largest country.

“He is an influential figure in Darfur. His leadership has contributed to stability and security,” Mr. al-Bashir said during a visit to Turkey. “We think the accusations against him are untrue.”

Mr. Hilal is the leader of the Mahamid, a clan belonging to the powerful Rezeigat tribe of nomad Arabs in Darfur. He is accused of having led the proxy militia raised by the Arab-dominated government in Khartoum to fight Darfur’s ethnic African rebels.

More than 200,000 people have died and 2.5 million been chased to refugee camps since the fighting began in 2003 — most of them ethnic Africans.

The U.N. Security Council imposed travel and financial sanctions on Mr. Hilal and three others in April 2006 for his purported role in what President Bush has called “genocide.”

Mr. Hilal has denied any wrongdoing, stating in a 2004 video interview with New York-based Human Rights Watch that he always acted on orders and under control of the Sudanese government.

Federal Affairs Minister Abdelbasit Sabderat told the Associated Press by telephone that Mr. Hilal would be “handling tribal affairs throughout the Sudan,” adding that Darfur would not be the adviser’s only focus.

The Sudanese government denies it arms or employs the Janjaweed: Stating they are uncontrolled tribal militias prone to banditry, while the tribal fighters incorporated into uniformed paramilitary groups, which do much of the government’s fighting in Darfur, are regular troops.

In February, however, the International Criminal Court in The Hague charged Cabinet Minister Ahmed Haroun and a suspected janjaweed leader known as Ali Kushayb with 51 counts of crimes against humanity and war crimes in Darfur, including the murder, rape, torture and persecution of civilians.

The ICC purports that Mr. Haroun coordinated government efforts to arm and fund the Janjaweed, and that Mr. Kushayb led militias in southern Darfur.

Sudan, which is not a party to the ICC, has refused to hand over the suspects. Mr. Haroun remains in office as minister of Humanitarian Affairs — where he oversees humanitarian relief for Darfur’s victims — and Mr. Kushayb is in hiding under government protection.

The ICC has declined to comment on whether it intends to charge Mr. Hilal.

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