A man suspected of ordering atrocities in the Darfur
region of Sudan has claimed that accusations of
genocide have been "exaggerated".
The rebels started the war - Musa Hilal
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
Answering claims of genocide against the black
Africans in the region, he accused the media and the
west of making the situation seem worse.
"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
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.
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
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.
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.
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