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Sudan’s army denies violating South Kordofan truce

August 29, 2011 (KHARTOUM) – Sudan has downplayed allegations of violating its own ceasefire in South Kordofan State, saying it had merely "dealt with" attempts by the rebels to infiltrate certain areas.

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Sudan’s President Omar Hassan al-Bashir inspects the guard of honour during his first visit to Kadogli capital of South Kordofan State August 23, 2011 (REUTERS PICTURES)

The Sudanese president Omer Al-Bashir last week announced a unilateral two-week ceasefire in South Kordofan State, where the country’s army has been fighting rebels of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement North (SPLM-N) since mid June.

Thousands of people have been forced to flee their homes and land as a result of the fighting, according to UN estimates. The SPLM-N reacted skeptically to Al-Bashir’s truce, saying it aims to conceal a military offensive in the making.

A couple of rights groups on Monday accused the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) of violating the ceasefire, saying that SAF continues to “indiscriminately” bomb civilian areas.

Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International said in a joint statement that their researchers led a week-long mission to the area in late August and were able to establish that SAF had carried out 13 air strikes in Kauda, Delami and Kurchi areas where at least 26 civilians were killed and more than 45 others injured since mid-June.

According to the two groups, their researchers witnessed government planes circling over civilian areas and dropping bombs, forcing civilians to seek shelter in mountains and caves.

“The relentless bombing campaign is killing and maiming civilian men, women and children, displacing tens of thousands, putting them in desperate need of aid, and preventing entire communities from planting crops and feeding their children,” said Daniel Bekele, Africa director at Human Rights Watch.

“The Sudanese government is literally getting away with murder and trying to keep the outside world from finding out” said Donatella Rovera, Amnesty International’s Senior Crisis Response Advisor. “The international community, and particularly the UN Security Council, must stop looking the other way and act to address the situation”.

The statement cited local organisations on the ground as saying that the government had continued to bomb civilian areas despite the ceasefire.

SAF, however denied violating the ceasefire, accusing the rebels of attempts to take advantage of the truce.

The army’s official spokesman Al-Sawarmi Khalid Sa’ad told Sudan’s official news agency (SUNA) on Tuesday that a 200-strong force of SPLM-N rebels had attempted to infiltrate Al-Fayid and other areas in South Kordofan in a bid to exploit the ceasefire.

He added that SAF was able to detect their movement and dealt with them accordingly, without giving details.

The spokesman also alleged that SPLM-N rebels staged an attack on Al-Sabi area in Al-Dilling locality but SAF repulsed the attack.

Al-Sawarmi reaffirmed SAF’s commitment to the ceasefire but later added that the army would respond strongly if the ceasefire is exploited.

UN reports accused SAF and its allied paramilitary forces of committing a wide-array of atrocities during South Kordofan’s conflict, including "extrajudicial killings, arbitrary arrests and illegal detention, enforced disappearances and attacks against civilians.”

The UN said the allegations, if substantiated, could amount to crimes against humanity or war crimes. Sudan labeled the reports as biased.

(ST)