London, Asharq Al-Awsat- The United States yesterday warned its citizens against traveling to Sudan and those living in Sudan against moving in the center of the capital and in specific locations to avoid being hurt.
This comes with the emergence of a terrorist group calling itself ‘Al-Qaeda in the Land of the Two Niles’ which has threatened to target Americans in Sudan, however spokesman for the Sudanese Foreign Ministry, Ambassador Ali al-Sadiq, down played the importance of the warning, stating to Asharq Al-Awsat that this was a routine move undertaken by Washington.
A message posted on the Internet site of the American Embassy in Khartoum said that Al-Qaeda in the Land of the Two Niles has issued a statement claiming responsibility for the assassination of USAID official John Granville and his driver last January 1. It said that its jihad and combat against the United States and its “Crusader and infidel” allies will continue, according to the embassy. Another message by the embassy said it had warned its employees against going to a café in Khartoum frequented by Westerners and well-off Sudanese. It said that the Cafe Ozone [as transliterated] in a high-class Khartoum district was “particularly endangered”. The Sudanese Government has repeatedly denied any active presence for Al-Qaeda in Sudan.
Ozone is an open-air café in the middle of a crowded square surrounded by houses and companies. The clients and workers can be seen clearly from the road and the buildings. A spokeswoman for the embassy said she could not comment on whether the warning about Café Ozone was linked to the threat by Al-Qaeda.
For his part, Foreign Ministry spokesman Al-Sadiq told Asharq Al-Awsat that repeated warnings in the past have not corroborated claims about the existence of security apprehensions. He said the warnings send the wrong signals to the international community about security conditions in Sudan. He pointed out that his country has asked all Western countries that claim there are security problems for their nationals in Khartoum to coordinate their efforts with Sudanese security bodies if they felt danger. Sources linked the American warnings to speculation that an arrest warrant would soon be issued for Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir by the International Criminal Court, which is reviewing a memorandum by its prosecutor-general accusing Al-Bashir of committing genocide in Darfur. But the Sudanese Foreign ministry rejected such a link, insisting that the timing was related to the killing of the American diplomat in Khartoum. Al-Sadiq stressed that there was no link between the American warning and the ICC. “In the coming weeks there will be the first anniversary of the murder of the American diplomat who was killed on New Year’s Eve,” he said. “The American Embassy statement comes as a precaution, and it does not provide any sign that there is a security defect”.
He clarified that “the area mentioned in the embassy’s statement is an upper-class district and the Westerners in Sudan say it is one of the most secure locations in Khartoum”. He said that there was cooperation between his country and the United States at a certain stage and that Washington has become certain that Sudan had no link to international terrorism. “The American Administration was supposed to have removed Sudan’s name from the list of State Sponsors of Terror, as it did with North Korea yesterday,” he said. He denied the existence of an organization by the name of Al-Qaeda in the Land of the Two Niles in Sudan. “A written statement was found in one location and was distributed within a limited area but this cannot be cited as evidence,” he said. There have been recurrent Western fears that extremist groups are preparing for operations in Khartoum. Sudanese security authorities said in August 2007 that they have uncovered a plot to attack the French, British, and American diplomatic missions and the UN mission in Khartoum. Foreign sources said that a group was apprehended in a house in Khartoum after explosives went off accidentally. Five men are now appearing before court in Khartoum on charges of assassinating John Granville and his driver Abdal-Rahman Abbas Rahmah. The five deny the charge. The prosecution said that the group which killed Granville and his driver targeted the Americans whom it believes are trying to “Christanize” the Sudanese. Earlier this year Al-Qaeda graffiti began to appear on walls in the capital. Sudan which hosted in the 1990s Osama Bin Laden, the leader of Al-Qaeda organization, has been on the American list of State Sponsors of Terror since 1993.