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Last Updated: Sunday, 14 November, 2004, 11:44 GMT
Janjaweed 'leader' denies genocide
Suspected janjaweed leader Musa Hilal
The rebels started the war - Musa Hilal
A man suspected of ordering atrocities in the Darfur region of Sudan has claimed that accusations of genocide have been "exaggerated".

Musa Hilal, who is suspected by the US state department of being a leader of the Arab Janjaweed militia, also told the BBC's Panorama programme that deaths in the region were simply 'repercussions' of war.

Mr Hilal, a tribal leader from northern Darfur who lives in the Sudanese capital Khartoum, is thought to be running one of 16 known Janjaweed bases.

However, when confronted by the BBC, he said he was simply a mayoral figure with no links with the military

Answering claims of genocide against the black Africans in the region, he accused the media and the west of making the situation seem worse.

Agenda

The rebels started this war - they started destroying our villages first
Musa Hilal
Suspected Janjaweed leader

"Where are the graves and the bodies?," he said. "Yes there is death in this war. It is not as they exaggerate."

The Sudanese foreign minister Dr Mustafa Osman Ismail, went further, he said: "Our position is clear, that what has been going on is not a genocide, this is an American attempt to use a humanitarian situation for a political agenda."

The United States has gone as far as saying that the situation in Sudan is genocide.

It is estimated that tens of thousands of people have been killed in Darfur in the past two years. The vast majority are black Africans.

Summary executions of African men in groups of 60 to 70, rape and the looting and burning of villages have all been documented.

But 43-year-old Mr Hilal also told Panorama that the blame for any deaths in Darfur should be laid at the feet of the Sudan Liberation Army, whom he accused of starting the conflict.

Unmarked uniforms

Mr Hilal, said: "My words are very clear in this regard. The war has its repercussions.

"The rebels started this war. They started burning and destroying many of the villages. They started destroying our villages first."

Panorama has also spoken to members of the Janjaweed in northern Darfur.

They also appear to substantiate the often denied claim that Arab soldiers - who are accused of rape and murder in Darfur - are armed by the Sudanese government.

Panorama spoke to one commander in the Janjaweed heartland of Mustariha.

He was in charge of a group of heavily armed men wearing unmarked government uniforms.

Burning villages

He (Musa Hilal) saw that his soldiers were looting and burning villages. He never questioned them.
Anonymous Janjaweed recruit

The man - Abdel Wahed - denied he was Janjaweed.

He claimed that he was in the Sudanese army but confirmed that he was armed by the government.

However the base in Mustariha is well known to the African Union soldiers in the area as being a Janjaweed camp.

A former Janjaweed recruit - who spoke to the programme anonymously - also confirmed that Musa Hilal was in charge of the Janjaweed in Mustariha.

The recruit was called up to join the Janjaweed in 2003. He says he was offered 60 a month and a gun.

Dismissed

He claimed that Abdel Wahed ran the base for Musa Hilal. He also claimed he had been told to burn rebel villages to the ground.

"They said that if you come across any villages with rebels in burn them down. Straight away."

And he confirmed that Musa Hilal knew exactly what his men were doing, adding: "He knew everything his soldiers had done. He saw it with his own eyes.

"He saw that his soldiers were looting and burning villages. He never questioned them."

But the Sudanese foreign minister again dismissed suggestions that there was a link between the government and Arab groups in the region.

When asked about the link, Dr Ismail simply said: "You have no credible evidence."

Panorama: The new killing fields will be broadcast at 22:15GMT on Sunday, November 14 on BBC One



SEE ALSO:
The new killing fields
08 Nov 04 |  Panorama
The Janjaweed tactics
14 Nov 04 |  Panorama
Frustration of Darfur 'observer'
14 Nov 04 |  Panorama
Sudan: charities and information
12 Nov 04 |  Panorama
Your comments
12 Nov 04 |  Panorama


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