Jihadi student squads are wreaking havoc on college campuses across northern Sudan, fueling a climate of intimidation and violence. The units, which enjoy autonomy even from police and university security officials, were originally formed to recruit students to fight in the Sudanese civil war, where the Islamist north tried to take over the heavily Christian south.
Sudanese businessman Ammar Sajjid recounts the painful episode involving his son, a 19-year old electronics student, who was kidnapped at his university by a jihadi unit of his fellow students, held in a room for hours and beaten.
“Nobody had access to this room, not even the police or professors,” Sajjid said.
The AFP spoke to several student leaders about the squads. Speaking on the condition of anonymity, one student leader said, “The jihad units support President Omar al-Bashir’s National Congress Party, store weapons and detain opposition students on campuses.”
Another student added, “The civil war has ended but these pro-regime jihad units still recruit students to attack opposition students.”
A senior leader of the opposition, Hassan al-Hussein, spoke about the squads at a recent party meeting. “These jihad units must be shut. They are responsible for unrest in universities,” he said.
Khalid Tigani, editor of Elaff newspaper, said the units now act as backup to the regular security forces of President Omar al-Bashir, a brutal Islamist who came to power in 1989 coup.
“They are not big in numbers, but they are well organized and they defend the regime,” said Tigani.