AP News

US group says Sudan forces raze remote border town


CAIRO (AP) — Sudanese security forces burned and looted a village in the remote Nuba Mountains in May before returning to shell the settlement two months later, a U.S. monitoring group said Tuesday as it released satellite imagery and video footage of the attacks.

The Satellite Sentinel Project, backed by actor and Sudan activist George Clooney, said the campaign by the Sudanese police force, military, and allied militias on the village of Gardud al Badry "amounts to crimes against humanity."

The report comes as renewed fighting broke out between Sudan's army and rebels in the volatile border region disputed by Sudan and South Sudan. The two sides clashed in the oil-producing Sudanese state of Southern Kordofan on Monday, after rebels shelled the state capital of Kadugli last week.

The Sudanese military could not be immediately reached for comment.

The Nuba Mountains lie in Southern Kordofan state. Violence erupted in there and in other northern border areas shortly before South Sudan declared independence last year. The United Nations estimates that nearly 700,000 people have been displaced or severely affected by the fighting over the past fifteen months. More than 200,000 alone have fled to neighboring Ethiopia and South Sudan.

The Sudanese government accuses the South Sudanese government of backing rebels in the Nuba Mountains, charges the South denies. Many inhabitants of South Kordofan fought for the south against the north during a civil war that lasted over two decades, and are ethnically linked to the south.

Ongoing fighting between the Sudanese army and rebels risks stoking tensions between Sudan and South Sudan, whose presidents signed economic and security agreements last month to allow a resumption of oil exports from South Sudan. The two countries also reached a deal on cessation of all hostilities that brought the countries to the brink of all-out war earlier this year.

Satellite and photo imagery, cellphone video footage, and eyewitness accounts released by the U.S. monitoring group provide a picture of the two attacks on the village. The group says that some of the video was shot by members of the notorious Sudanese police force, known as "Abu Tira," who allegedly participated alongside Sudanese forces and militias in razing the village on May 18. Satellite images show before and after views of the village, while photos show huts ablaze.

"We are seeing a repeat of Darfur without the international witnesses," said John Prendergast of the U.S.-based Enough Project, referring to Sudan's western region, which has been torn by conflict for almost a decade. Prendergast, whose advocacy group partners with Clooney, said the new material from the monitoring group "adds to mounting, and undeniable, visual evidence of a pattern of indiscriminate attacks and destruction by the government of Sudan against its own people."

More than 300,000 people have been killed in Darfur since 2003, when rebels took up arms against the central government, accusing it of discrimination and neglect.

Clooney's satellite project has been collecting and analyzing satellite imagery from the Nuba Mountains and other border areas for over a year, collecting evidence of alleged mass graves, razed villages, and forced displacement in the embattled border regions.

Human Rights Watch has also documented what it called "indiscriminate bombings and abuses against civilians" in the Nuba Mountains, saying the attacks "may amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity" and have created a humanitarian crisis.

Since the fighting began more than a year ago, access to the remote region by the United Nations and international aid agencies has been restricted by the Sudanese government, making it difficult to verify conditions in the area.

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The Satellite Sentinel Project posted this video evidence on YouTube of the attacks: http://youtu.be/FzwXype1s2c


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