Sudan's Neighbors Accuse It of Training Terrorists
Egypt, Algeria, and Israel are among those angered at Khartoum's furnishing of bases for teaching assassins
WHERE are international terrorists going for training, now that the network of camps in the Soviet bloc and states has shrunk to naught? One answer is Sudan.
This immense northern African state, lying astride the Nile above Egypt, has no monopoly on the grim business of training foreign nationals in such black arts as subversion, explosives, the handling of man-portable weapons, and document forgery. There are other training centers, such as Afghanistan. But to an extent unnerving to Sudan's many neighbors, even Libya, Sudanese camps are training foreigners in terrorism - the killing of civilians to create shock and thereby advance political and politico-religious ends.
In the Sudanese network of camps - there are about 20, Egyptian sources say - many of the trainers are Iranians, especially from the Revolutionary Guard, the Pasdaran. Doubtless there are others, including Afghan veterans of the mujahadeen.
The ''student'' population is very diverse. Trainees come from a few distant states and all the neighboring ones: Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Algeria, Tunisia, and Uganda. The powerful Islamic extremist groups Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and Hizbullah have all sent members to Sudan for training. Open offices, like the one Hamas keeps in the Ammarat district of Khartoum, presumably facilitate the ingress, training, and egress of the foreign nationals.
The effects on the geopolitics of the region have been remarkable. Egypt, always balanced between internal turmoil and foreign pressures, is enraged by the aggressiveness of its southern neighbor. Under international law Cairo has every right to hold Khartoum responsible for its miscreants - and it has, loudly and regularly, for several years. These protestations have grown since June 26, when President Hosni Mubarak was nearly assassinated on a trip to Addis Ababa. Extradition papers on three accused terrorists now in the Sudan are so far unattended to by Khartoum.
In Algeria, where extremists and activists have been at war with the once-revolutionary, now-reactionary FLN government, authorities have objected to Sudanese involvement in Algerian internal affairs. Elections last month reaffirmed the ruling regime but did not end the campaign of indigenous Islamic militants, and these men and women will doubtless continue to seek Sudanese aid and inspiration.
Israel, whose political stability Washington observes even more closely than Egypt's (given the major US interest in both countries' adherence to Camp David and the Israeli-Palestinian accords) is also disrupted by Sudan's terrorist camps. Hamas, antihero of bus bombings and other acts of terror in Gaza and the West Bank, has a representative in Khartoum who boasts that Sudan has been ''very supportive of our operations.''
United States Ambassador Donald Peterson, who has just completed his tour of duty, took special interest in this aspect of Sudanese policy, and successor Timothy Carney has as much cause to do so. Their predecessor from 1973, Cleo Noel, was assassinated in Sudan by Palestinians. But while Peterson protested bluntly, and while the US has slapped sanctions on Sudan, protests have been rebuffed. The senior Muslim cleric whose National Islamic Front controls Sudanese politics, Hassan al-Turabi, has dismissed US evidence of training camps, including a Hamas member's description of his experiences, as reports from ''ignorant people who don't know their geography.''
After President Mubarak alleged direct Sudanese involvement in the assassination attempt, al-Turabi's response was to hold a spirited rally. Interviewed over Iranian radio on another occasion, he depicted terrorism charges as part of an ongoing war between infidels and those of true faith.
A Sudanese minister, similarly pressed, offered the example of the extradition of ''Carlos,'' a Venezuelan Communist terrorist, as proof that Sudan does not harbor terrorists.
Meanwhile, evidence grows. The official Egyptian news service, MENA, reported in September that confessed terrorists have identified a number of camps that train Ethiopians: One lies outside Khartoum; another at the Red Sea city of Port Sudan; and a third, at Fan, trains Eriteans lured from UN refugee camps in Sudan.
Apparently, Sudanese citizens were directly involved, working with the Egyptian gunmen in the attack on Mubarak and his guards in Addis Ababa. Egyptian officials say that they have identified Sudanese Airways and the Sudanese Embassy in Addis Ababa as facilitators for three containers of weapons shipped to the group, whose members slipped into Ethiopia to make the assault.
Egypt has extensive evidence of Sudan's involvement in the assassination. Eritrea has broken diplomatic relations with Sudan. Ethiopia alerted border troops, cut back diplomatic liaison, and banned Sudanese Airways. Kenya, and especially Uganda, have expressed concern. Libya is in the process of expelling 300,000 Sudanese workers. The Organization of African Unity has already criticized Khartoum, and a further report is imminent. And the UN Security Council could take up the assassination issue after Egypt becomes a member this January.
In short, terrorist training has isolated Sudan to a point where no state will be its friend except Iran, the fount of fundamentalism at which al-Turabi and his Islamic National Front have so steadily found inspiration and funds.
The Iranian-Sudanese shared policy is propagation of militant and expansionist Islam. One of the supporting strategies is terrorism - and its use has been against secular or conservative Arab states.
The Sudanese bases also provide a case study. They belie a recurring assertion in many public and academic discussions. When ''terrorism'' is mentioned, someone invariably observes that ''terrorism is just a Western word for violence we don't like.'' It is said to be an epithet that communicates little more than religious or cultural prejudice. ''They'' have ''terrorists'' while ''we'' have ''freedom fighters.''
The simple truth is that some states do use violence against innocent people to advance their religious or political ends. When they do so, they must be resisted. There are a dozen moderate African and Arab states that would welcome US support on this issue, and they deserve it.
We must protect our common interests, of which the life of Mubarak is most definitely one. Otherwise, on another day, he could follow President Anwar Sadat, or, all too recently, Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin.