A paramilitary spokesman said that 72 of the arrested people belonged to the Sudanese Awakening Revolutionary Council, an armed group led by the former Janjaweed militia leader Musa Hilal.

A member Sudan's paramilitary Rapid Support Forces stands next to a vehicle during an operation in a remote desert area near the country's border with Libya.
A member Sudan's paramilitary Rapid Support Forces stands next to a vehicle during an operation in a remote desert area near the country's border with Libya. (Reuters)

Sudan has said its security forces arrested at least 122 people, including eight children, in the western Darfur region who intended to go and fight as mercenaries in neighbouring Libya.

Brig. Gen. Gamal Gomaa, a spokesman for the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces, said in a statement on Sunday that 72 of the arrested people belonged to the Sudanese Awakening Revolutionary Council, an armed group led by the former Janjaweed militia leader Musa Hilal.

Hilal was an adviser to Sudan’s longtime autocrat Omar al Bashir before they had a falling out. 

Hilal quit his post in 2013 to establish his own armed group, and was sanctioned by the UN Security Council for his involvement in the Darfur conflict. He was arrested in November 2017 and is imprisoned in the capital, Khartoum.

Sudan is currently undergoing a fragile democratic transition after massive protests last year forced the military to topple al Bashir.

READ MORE: Libya says mercenaries threaten national security 

The Darfur region remains scarred by war after a rebellion in the early 2000s against al Bashir was brutally suppressed.

Meanwhile, Libya in recent years has turned into a regional proxy war, with rival administrations in the east and the west, each backed by armed groups and foreign countries.

Gomaa did not say which warring side the arrested had intended to fight for. 

Libya's UN-recognised unity government has long accused Sudan of sending fighters to back renegade warlord Khalifa Haftar who controls territory in the country's east.

READ MORE: How the UAE is coercing young Sudanese into becoming mercenaries

Sudan's Foreign Minister  Asma Abdalla earlier this week denied that Sudanese forces were involved in the conflict in Libya and said, "We cannot get involved in a conflict in any neighbouring country."

Gomaa said the 72 arrested militia members face an array of accusations, including attacking a military camp, inciting against the state, recruiting children for fighting and looting. 

The others would be handed over to police for further investigation, he said.

He said security forces in February arrested over 240 people for planning to join the fighting in Libya. He said they were brought before justice, without elaborating.

War in Libya

Plunged into chaos by the 2011 NATO-backed uprising that toppled and killed its longtime leader Muammar Gaddafi, oil-rich Libya has two rival administrations.

Haftar's forces, which are also backed by Egypt and the UAE, launched an assault in April 2019 to wrest control of the capital Tripoli from the UN-recognised GNA.

Warlord Haftar's fighters withdrew from the southern outskirts of Tripoli and the entire west of the country earlier this month after a string of battlefield defeats by the Turkish-backed GNA.

READ MORE: Dubai-based firms sent mercenaries to Libya - UN report

On Saturday, Sarraj also held talks in Rome with Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte during which he stressed that a solution to the Libyan conflict cannot be military, the GNA said.

Source: AP