THEIR uniforms give the militia away as young troops ready to
fight a jihad, or "holy war." The khaki outfits are ill-fitted and
made in Iran - faded leftovers from the muddy Iran-Iraq war that
have been washed too often, years ago.
This squad of the Popular Defense Force (PDF), trained to march
with a gun and recite the Koran, is part of Sudan's new Islamic
forces. They are modeled after Iran's Revolutionary Guards, and
reported by some Western observers to be trained by Iranians.
The Islamic militia is beginning to replace the mistrusted Army
- whose disgruntled officers have aided four coup attempts so far
against the military regime of Lt. Gen. Umar Hassan al-Bashir.
Western diplomats worry that what they call Sudan's increasingly
radical brand of "political Islam" will result in a new safe haven
for terrorist organizations pushed out of Libya, Lebanon, Iraq, and
"Sudan has nothing to offer but a home for fundamentalism," says
one Western intelligence source here.
The recent influx of militants into Sudan prompted the US State
Department to warn Khartoum in a December message regarding "the
increased presence of terrorists there and ... that Sudan runs a
very serious risk of being branded a terrorist state."
Such accusations are exaggerated, according to Hassan al-Turabi,
head of the National Islamic Front (NIF) and widely considered to
be the de facto ruler of Sudan. In 1983 Mr. Turabi spearheaded
Sudan's implementation of the Sharia, Islamic penal law, that
resulted in public amputations and a ban on alcohol, and caused an
"The Sudanese have never had a history of terrorism, and they
are too weak to export anything by force," Turabi told the Monitor.
"The Islamic movement has been strong here for years; there is no
The rise of Muslim hard-liners in Sudan has been swift since
General Bashir ousted the elected government of the Prime Minister
Sadiq al-Mahdi in June 1989.
Sudanese and Western observers describe how the coup was
methodically "hijacked" by leaders of the fundamentalist NIF.
Within a year, NIF supporters controlled the security apparatus,
and had purged the government, the judiciary, and universities of
Muslims wavering in the faith.
In March 1991, the Sharia, Islamic law, was reinstituted by the
ruling Revolutionary Command Council of National Salvation, against
the will of the Christian- and animist-dominated south.
Though denying Western charges that Sudan is open to terrorist
training activities, the Bashir regime has taken advantage of the
trend toward fundamentalist Islam now building in the Arab world.
Hoping to end its almost total isolation since backing Iraqi
President Saddam Hussein in the Gulf war, Sudan has embraced Iran.
When Iran's President Hashemi Rafsanjani visited Khartoum in
December, Bashir reportedly told him that Iran's 1979 Islamic
revolution inspired his own take-over of power. …