Face to Face with One of Sudan's Most Wanted Men

ByABC News

May 31, 2005 — -- On the outskirts of the Sudanese capital, Khartoum, ABC News met Sheik Musa Hillal, allegedly Sudan's most notorious war criminal, leader of Arab militiamen known as the Janjaweed.

"Musa Hillal is the principal and foremost commander of the Janjaweed forces in western Sudan, Darfur, who probably has more blood on his hands as a commander of those forces than any other," said John Prendergast, of the International Crisis Group, a nonprofit organization that works to end violent conflicts around the world.

Hillal and the Janjaweed allegedly took part in an ethnic cleansing campaign that the United Nations says has killed 180,000 people and forced 2 million people from their homes. Sudan's government and the pro-government Arab militias, the Janjaweed, are accused of killing, looting and driving out the region's black African population in response to an anti-government rebellion.

A number of U.S. officials have called the wave of mass killings a genocide and the United Nations has repeatedly tried to get the world to solve one of the world's worst humanitarian crisis.

Surprisingly enough, Hillal was sitting with leaders of Darfur's largest non-Arab tribe -- the very tribe Hillal is accused of terrorizing.

One leader told ABC News that Hillal had come before his tribe to seek reconciliation and forgiveness.

When asked if he thought he was part of the problem, Hillal said, "I am part of Darfur and everyone who is part of Darfur is part of the problem."

Hillal denies being a war criminal. "If I am a war criminal, all the other tribal chiefs, they have the power to put me on trial and question me. I will accept their judgment, even if it means being shot."

Hillal explains his actions as simply helping the Sudanese government suppress rebel fighters.

As for the casualties, he said that like in any conflict, "normally innocent people are affected."

Hillal insisted reports of widespread destruction in Darfur are a "media fabrication." But one tribal chief, Fudul Sese Muhammed Atim, said the violence had forced two-thirds of his people off their land and into refugee camps.

"It's real," he said.

The United States has named Hillal as one of seven alleged war criminals it wants the government of Sudan to arrest.

That appears unlikely, however, considering that ABC News interviewed Hillal at a club for police officers.

ABC News' Jonathan Karl filed this report for "World News Tonight."

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