The 2008 attack on Omdurman and Khartoum was a military advance by the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM), a Darfuri rebel group, against the Sudanese government in the cities of Omdurman and Khartoum. From the ruling government's viewpoint, the attack took place on a single day, May 10, 2008, while JEM has countered the government's account with reports of heavy fighting in parts of the Khartoum metropolitan area into May 11.
It was the first time that the fighting, previously confined to western Sudan reached the country's capital, marking a dramatic widening of the conflict.
On May 10
, Sudanese government
soldiers and Darfur rebels clashed in the city of Omdurman, opposite the capital of Khartoum, over the control of a military headquarters
. A Sudanese police spokesperson said the alleged leader of the assailants, Mohamed Saleh Garbo
, and his intelligence chief, Mohamed Nur Al-Deen, were both killed in the clash.
Witnesses reported heavy gunfire in the west of Sudan's capital and helicopters and army vehicles rushing through the streets towards Omdurman. After seizing of the strategic military airbase at Wadi-Sayedna, the Sudanese soldiers eventually defeated the rebels, and by late afternoon Sudanese TV told that the rebels had been "completely repulsed", while showing live pictures of burnt vehicles and bodies on the street. The government declared an overnight curfew shortly after its announced cessation of hostilities at 1400 GMT.
However, the JEM's spokespersons had denied the government's allegations of victory against the rebels, instead stating that fighting was still going on in Omdurman and Khartoum North. The JEM has identified the overthrow of Omar Hassan al-Bashir's military government as the goal of the rebels.
A Sudanese Air Force MiG-29 was shot down by heavy machine gun fire while attacking the JEM convoy; the Russian mercenary pilot was killed as his parachute did not open after ejecting.
Omdurman residents said there was more fighting on the morning of May 11
. Fighting was also reported on May 12
, after security forces pursued a small group of suspected rebels.
On May 12
, Khalil Ibrahim
spoke by telephone to the Associated Press
claiming to still be within Omdurman with his fighters. Residents reported that fighting was continuing on May 12 in the markets of Al-Souq Al-Sha’bi in Omdurman and Al-Souq Al-Arabi, AlG’abat and Al-Huria Street in central Khartoum, west of the American Embassy
, that same day on the other bank of the nile, residents in Banat and Al-Muhandiseen areas reported some shootings in the area, an eyewitness said that the Sudanese security forces set a siege around on of the buildings said to be occupied by the JEM fighters.
Cutoff of diplomatic relations with Chad
Sudan accused its neighbor Chad
of providing haven and ammunition to the rebels, and the Sudanese government had announced that rebels were moving over the border from Chad to the Darfur
region, which is the epicenter of the conflict between Darfuri rebels and pro-government Janjaweed
militants; the rebels then moved over some 600 km (400 miles) of desert and scrub from Darfur to the Khartoum metropolitan area. Chad denied the allegations, but Sudan immediately cut off relations with Chad for the first time since a non-aggression pact was signed between the two countries' governments in mid-March.
and 10 other members of the opposition Popular Congress Party
(PCP) were arrested at dawn in their homes in Khartoum, because of their alleged links to the rebels. Turabi was released later in the day, denying any such relationship between the PCP and JEM.
The Sudanese armed forces offered a $125,000 USD bounty for the arrest of the JEM leader Khalil Ibrahim, who was allegedly wounded by government forces during fighting on May 10 in Omdurman.
- United Nations: United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon condemned "the use of armed force and military means by JEM for the achievement of political ends", and called for an immediate cessation of hostilities and renewed efforts towards peace in Darfur. He expressed concern about the effects that the attack would have on the UN's own efforts in the region.
- : The European Union’s High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy, Javier Solana, condemned the attack on the Sudanese capital by the JEM, saying: "There can be no military solution to the crisis in Darfur, in particular, nor to the problems of Sudan, in general." He also urged the Sudanese government to exert in the coming days maximum restraint, in particular towards the civilian populations of the capital, primary victims of this new surge of violence.
- : Deputy Press Secretary Gordon Johndroe stated from Crawford, Texas that the U.S. government was very concerned about the invasion, and urged "that both sides cease hostilities, whether it is the rebel group or any response from the government. We want to see a calm and order restored.
- : Minister of Foreign Affairs Jonas Gahr Støre condemned the rebel attack on Khartoum, saying according to a press release Sunday, that: "The fighting shows the need for reinforced efforts from the UN, AU, the international community and parties in the Darfur conflict to find a political solution to the conflict in Darfur. The conference emphasized the need for a united international effort to create peace in the entire Sudan. The situation in Sudan is now very serious. Only political dialogue can change this. Both the authorities in Sudan and rebel movements have to recognise that the continued military struggle is a dead-end. Norway was earlier this week the host of the UN and World Bank donor conference for Sudan.