Darfur terror chief slips into Britain
|The Observer , 12 Mars 2006|
The man accused of being an architect of the genocide in Darfur, Major-General Salah Abdullah Gosh, secretly visited London last week to meet senior British officials.
The Foreign Office admitted it had issued a visa to Gosh, the head of Sudan's National Security agency and the man accused of being a key figure behind the counter-insurgency campaign that has claimed the lives of tens of thousands.
While officials originally claimed the visa had been issued so Gosh could undergo 'medical treatment', they added yesterday that he had also met unnamed British officials for 'discussions on the Darfur peace process'.
British officials are also understood to have discussed al-Qaeda with Gosh, who knew Osama bin Laden in the Nineties. The admission that Foreign Office officials met Gosh - who has been accused of having recruited the janjaweed Arab militias responsible for most of the abuses in Darfur - drew claims of British 'hypocrisy' from human rights groups.
The Sudanese government has repeatedly denied any involvement in recruiting and commanding the militias.
The visa was issued to Gosh to come to Britain for 'medical treatment' after he was apparently refused re-entry to the United States, which he visited last year for meetings with the CIA.
Gosh is number two on a widely leaked but unpublished United Nations list of senior Sudanese officials who have been blamed by a UN panel of experts for failing to prevent a campaign of widespread ethnic cleansing in Darfur carried out by the janjaweed militias whom Gosh is accused of directing.
The list forms the basis of a UN Security Council resolution that would ban Gosh and others from international travel and freeze his foreign assets. Gosh's name is also understood to be on a second list, which is being considered for referral on war crimes charges to the International Criminal Court in The Hague.
His visit last week, during which he is understood also to have met American officials, has outraged human rights campaigners, who, with the US government, have accused the Sudanese government of prosecuting 'genocide' in Darfur. The outrage comes not least because, as sponsor of the UN resolution, the British government, along with other Security Council members, has seen the list of Sudanese officials threatened with sanctions over Darfur.
The three high-level Sudanese officials - including Gosh and Interior Minister Zubair Bashir Taha - were placed on the 17-name list because they failed to take appropriate action to carry out the Sudanese government's commitment to disarm the janjaweed, who have been attacking non-Arab villagers in Darfur, according to a report to the UN by a panel of experts. The Khartoum government promised 18 months ago to disarm those militia, but has failed to do so.
As well as being held responsible for the Sudanese government's counter-terrorism campaign in Darfur, which has resulted in the displacement of two million people and the deaths of tens of thousands, Gosh also gained notoriety when he acted as the Sudanese government's liaison with Osama bin Laden, who was based in Sudan between 1990 and 1996.
It is for this latter reason that Gosh was flown by the CIA to its headquarters in Langley, Virginia, last year in a private jet before his presence in the US was leaked to the media. Inevitably, this provoked outrage.
Gosh's visit to the UK comes at a time of continuing efforts to reach a peace deal in the region. Last Friday, the African Union agreed to extend its beleaguered peacekeeping mandate in Darfur for a further six months. It also comes against the background of a worsening security situation that - also last Friday - forced the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees to announce that it was cutting its aid efforts in Sudan by 40 per cent.