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As Qaddafi's supporters flee, Libya fallout could impact Darfur

A key Darfuri rebel commander who took refuge in Libya is now back in the region. His return could destabilize an uneasy peace between the rebels and the governments of Sudan and Chad.

By Alex ThurstonGuest blogger / September 13, 2011

Khalil Ibrahim, the leader of the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM), bids farewell to UN officials following a meeting at an undisclosed location in Sudan's Western Darfur region in this handout picture taken April 18, 2008.

Stuart Price/Reuters

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As observers assess the fallout from Libya’s civil war, a lot of eyes are on Niger, where some of ousted leader Col. Muammar Qaddafi’s lieutenants (and family) have fled. But the war in Libya will have fallout for Sudan too. A major rebel commander who had taken refuge in Libya, Khalil Ibrahim of the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM), has now returned to Darfur:

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JEM – the biggest rebel group in Darfur – signed a ceasefire with the Sudanese government in February 2010 but abandoned peace talks soon after, accusing Khartoum’s forces of launching new raids in Darfur.

Col Gaddafi’s fall in Tripoli is a blow to the rebels as he gave them sanctuary and financial and military aid, analysts say.

Mr. Ibrahim was exiled in Libya since May 2010 after Chad – said to be another major backers of the rebels – refused to give him refuge following a peace deal with the Sudanese government.

Sudan Tribune has more.

Violence has picked up again in Darfur since December, and Ibrahim’s return could spark new conflict between rebels and the governments of Chad and Sudan:

Darfur’s most heavily armed rebel group warned Friday the governments of Chad and Sudan were planning a joint attack on their positions, after 100 rebel vehicles reportedly crossed the Libyan border.

“Chad and Sudan are preparing a joint operation to attack JEM,” the Justice and Equality Movement’s spokesman Gibril Adam Adam told AFP by phone.

“Chad is massing troops in Abeche and there are three Mig fighter planes at the airport there,” he said, referring to a town in eastern Chad about 120 kilometres (75 miles) from Sudan’s Darfur region.

“Sudan has given the Chadian government permission to go 300 kilometres inside Sudan’s borders to target JEM,” he added, calling on Chad not to intervene in the conflict.

Increased violence in Darfur could spell trouble for both Chad and Sudan. Ibrahim’s return underlines just how tricky things are getting for a number of countries in the Sahel, now that Qadhafi has fallen.

Alex Thurston is a PhD student studying Islam in Africa at Northwestern University and blogs at Sahel Blog.

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