US adds Sudanese al Qaeda operative involved in murder of diplomat to list of terrorists

LWJ

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The US government has added Abd Al-Ra’Ouf Abu Zaid Mohamed Hamza, an al Qaeda-linked operative who was involved in the murder a US diplomat and his driver in Khartoum in 2008, to the list of Specially Designated Global Terrorists. Hamza’s father is a senior cleric in a jihadist group that claimed the attack and is closely tied to al Qaeda in the Sudan.

The US State Department added Hamza to the list of global terrorists today.

“In making this designation, the Department seeks to emphasize to the public and, in particular, to the Granville and Abbas families, our commitment to justice prevailing in this case,” the State Department said in the press release.

Hamza is one of five jihadists who were convicted by the Sudanese government for their involvement the assassination of US Agency for International Development (USAID) diplomat John Michael Granville and his driver, Adbelrahman Abbas Rahama, in Khartoum, Sudan on Jan. 1, 2008. Granville and Abbas were shot at least 17 times after leaving a New Year’s Eve party held at the British Embassy in Khartoum.

Not long after the New Year’s Day attack in Khartoum, Sudanese authorities detained five men believed to have committed the assassination: Hamza, Mohamed Makawi Ibrahim Mohamed, Abdelbasit Alhaj Alhasan Haj Hamad, Mohannad Osman Youssef, and Murad Abdel-Rahman Abdullah. Two of the men were arrested in February 2008 by Sudanese authorities after a brief shootout in a suburb of Khartoum’s twin city, Omdurman. In 2009, a Sudanese court sentenced all of the suspects to death except Abdullah, who was given just two years in prison. In June 2010, however, all four men who had been sentenced to death managed to escape from the heavily fortified maximum-security Kober federal prison in Khartoum. A police officer was killed during the escape.

Sudanese officials reported in September 2010 that the fugitives were likely hiding in Darfur in Sudan. Hamza was recaptured within three weeks of his escape from prison. Mohannad Osman Youssef “was reportedly killed in Somalia in May 2011,” according to Rewards for Justice.

Makawi and Abdelbasit are still on the run and are thought to be in Somalia with Shabaab, an al Qaeda affiliate. The US added the two fugitives to its terrorism list in January 2010 [see LWJ report, US adds 2 Sudanese al Qaeda operatives to list of terrorists].

Makawi was the leader of the assassination cell, and the US government said that he has “ties to the Sudan-based terrorist organization al Qaeda in the Land of the Two Niles, which conspired to attack other US, Western, and Sudanese targets.”

The murder of Granville and his driver was claimed by both al Qaeda in the Land of the Two Niles and by another Sudanese terror group, Ansar al-Tawhid (Partisans of Monotheism). Al Qaeda in the Land of the Two Niles claimed the attack was part of the global jihad, while Ansar al-Tawhid said it was to halt the spread of Christianity and avenge the humiliation of Muslims.

Hamza’s father is a senior cleric in Ansar al-Tawhid.

US intelligence officials told The Long War Journal that the two groups operate in close coordination and often pool resources and personnel.

Prison escape of Abdelbasit and Makawi shown in video

In late December 2012, a jihadist media group calling itself the “al-Hijratain Foundation,” a possibly al Qaeda-affiliated group tied to Ansar al-Tawhid, released a video detailing the June 2010 prison escape of the four men [see LWJ report, Sudanese jihadist media front releases video detailing prison escape of convicted militants]. Abdelbasit and Makawi were featured prominently in the video.

The video sheds light on the escape, and raises questions about the security at the supposedly heavily fortified maximum-security Kober federal prison. The jihadists claimed they stole a prison guard’s keys, which they used to unlock their shackles and were thus able to construct a 125-foot-long tunnel underneath the prison.

The video is narrated mostly by Makawi, who appears in it sitting in front of al Qaeda in Iraq’s flag.

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