Home | News    Thursday 30 June 2005

Eastern Sudan rebels say Khartoum hiding bombing casualties

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ASMARA, June 30 (AFP) — The head of an eastern Sudan rebel group said Thursday the Sudanese government is trying to hide casualties from alleged bombing of civilian targets last week that were aimed at halting an advance by his fighters.

Rebels from Sudan’s Eastern Front parade during a conference held by the Front north of Kassala town, near the Eritrean border. (AFP).

Musa Mohamed Ahmed, chief of the Eastern Front, also said that his forces are ready to defend themselves from counter-attacks by Khartoum, which he earlier alleged had resorted to aerial bombing to halt a rebel offensive.

He said the air force had destroyed four villages and a main bridge in the in the remote Barka Valley in eastern Red Sea state and caused a large but unknown number of civilian casualties.

Ahmed told reporters in the Eritrean capital that the number of dead and injured was impossible to determine because the Sudanese authorities were attempting to keep the figure secret.

"We are doing our best to collect this information," he said. "Most casualties are in government-supervised hospitals and nobody is allowed to enter. The government tries to prevent the news coming out."

Khartoum has denied staging air attacks, and Ahmed, in Eritrea for a meeting of Sudan’s largest opposition group, the National Democratic Alliance, said the fighting had now stopped.

He said he had been personally supervising the fighting but had not seen the damage caused by the bombs, which he had been told destroyed the bridge between Tokar and Garora on the Barka river, and the villages of Krimbit, Dolabyai, Igayeb and Odwan.

His claims could not be independently confirmed.

Ahmed said the Eastern Front had released "many" captured Sudanese soldiers but was still holding 19 in a "liberated area" where they are being treated as "prisoners of war."

Ahmed added that if the rebels were ready to fight back if Khartoum decides to try to repel Eastern Front forces from territory they had gained south of Port Sudan.

Fighting broke out earlier this month in Red Sea state and has sparked an escalating war of words between Eritrea and Sudan, which accuses Asmara of supporting the rebels militarily.

On Wednesday, Khartoum warned of an "explosion" on the border if Eritrea, which hosts offices of the Eastern Front and other Sudanese rebel groups, continued its backing.

Meanwhile, Asmara renewed its denials of military support for the rebels but at the same time accused Khartoum of committing "horrendous crimes" and "atrocities" in the troubled western Darfur region and the east.

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