Latest News
Sudan flies new jets in show of military muscle
By [unknown placeholder $article.art_field1$]
Jan 2, 2009 - 3:18:10 AM

Sudan flies new jets in show of military muscle

Thu 1 Jan 2009, 8:48 GMT

By Andrew Heavens

KHARTOUM (Reuters) - Sudan unveiled on Wednesday new fighter planes and missiles in a parade seen as a show of strength aimed at critics supporting a war crimes case against its president and Darfur rebels threatening more attacks.

The Independence Day show, which displayed scores of Sudanese tanks, anti-aircraft guns, armoured personnel carriers and rocket launchers, was the latest in a string of military exercises the army has organised in Sudan this week.

Analysts say the exercise was designed to bolster President Omar Hassan al-Bashir, accused by the International Criminal Court of orchestrating genocide in the western region of Darfur.

Bashir, who did not refer directly to the ICC case in his address to the rally, also faces the possibility of more violence after the Darfur rebel Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) said last week it was ready to hit other cities.

JEM attacked the capital Khartoum in May.

"On Sudan's Independence Day, we reject any parties that want to target Sudan's independence," Bashir told a crowd of thousands. "We warn any enemies who want to target the independence and unity of Sudan."

ICC judges are considering a request by the prosecutor for an arrest warrant for Bashir. A decision is expected next month.

Khartoum has repeatedly described the case as part of a Western plot to overthrow Bashir and his government.

Sudan with its military displays was putting down a marker that it was "not a power to be trifled with," said Patrick Smith, editor of the UK-based newsletter Africa Confidential.

"From the range of different things on show, they're saying they are not a one-trick army. They have got lots of techniques and methods," he added.

Senior JEM official, Al-Tahir al-Feki, dismissed the recent military exercises in Khartoum as "a huge propaganda exercise".


Diplomats attending the parade said they saw several missiles and Iranian multi-barrelled rocket launchers.

Four jet planes that flew over the crowd were said by the official announcer at the show to be Sukhoi Su-25s which were added to the air force in 2008. Diplomats said the Su-25, also known as the "Frogfoot", was first developed in Russia.

Two months ago U.S.-based campaign group Human Rights First said Iran and Russia had become direct weapons suppliers to Sudan -- joining China and nine other states -- after a U.N. arms embargo was imposed in 2004.

The arms ban covers all warring parties in Sudan's western Darfur region where international experts say fighting has killed 200,000 people in almost six years.

Sudan regularly insists it has the right to import arms.

Many people at the parade carried banners supporting Bashir, attacking the ICC and drawing parallels between campaigns against Sudan and Israeli air strikes on Gaza.

"America is behind ICC ... We reject any cooperation with the ICC and we are ready to protect al-Bashir," said Bashira Ahmed, a 21-year-old university student.

© Copyright by