The Hague: Darfur rebel leader Saleh Jerbo, charged with war crimes by the International Criminal Court, has been killed in the war-ravaged western Sudanese region, fellow rebels and his defence team said.
“The defence of Mr Saleh Mohammad Jerbo Jamus hereby notifies the trial chamber, with great sadness... that Mr Jerbo died in North Darfur, Sudan on the afternoon of 19 April 2013, and was buried the same day,” said an ICC document published late Tuesday.
Jerbo, along with fellow Darfur rebel leader Abdullah Banda, faced three war crimes charges for allegedly leading an attack on African Union peacekeepers in northern Darfur in September 2007, killing 12.
The two had been due to go on trial at The Hague-based ICC in May 2014.
Banda, around 50, and Jerbo, 36, appeared voluntarily before the court in June 2010 and urged other war crimes suspects to surrender to justice.
“Mr Jerbo was killed during an attack on his location by forces of the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) faction led by Gibril Ibrahim,” said the ICC document, seen by AFP on Wednesday.
Last Friday Ebrahim’s group, the main JEM group, announced it had clashed around Jebel Darma in North Darfur state with a breakaway faction led by Mohamed Bashar.
Ali Wafi, spokesman for JEM’s Bashar faction within which Jerbo was the deputy commander, confirmed Jerbo’s death.
“Our deputy commander was killed on Friday at 2pm when he came back from visiting his family in an area in north Darfur,” Wafi told AFP by telephone from Doha.
“He was ambushed by the Gibril group and he was killed with his four guards and we are now preparing to take revenge for our deputy commander.”
Bashar’s faction signed a peace deal with Khartoum in early April. It became only the second group to join the 2011 peace pact signed in the Gulf state of Qatar between Sudan’s government and the Liberation and Justice Movement, an alliance of rebel splinter factions.
Four others are wanted for war crimes in Darfur: Sudanese Defence Minister Abdul Rahim Mohammad Hussain, former Sudanese government minister Ahmad Harun, pro-government Janjaweed militia leader Ali Kushayb, and Sudan’s President Omar Al Bashir, whom prosecutors accuse of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes in Darfur.
Al Bashir continues to defy an ICC arrest warrant as he travels around the continent.
At least 300,000 people have been killed in Darfur and two million people forced to flee their homes since non-Arab rebels first rose up against the Arab-dominated Khartoum regime in 2003, the United Nations says.
The government puts the death toll at 10,000.
While the worst of the violence has long passed, instability has been complicated by inter-Arab fighting, kidnappings, carjackings and other crimes, many suspected to be the work of government-linked militia and paramilitary groups.