Sudan bombing Nuba civilians
New York - The Sudanese armed forces have carried out deadly air raids on civilians in rebel-held areas of the Nuba Mountains that may amount to war crimes, two leading human rights groups said on Tuesday.
Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch said that during a week-long visit to the region their researchers saw almost daily bombing raids by government aircraft on villages and farmland.
On August 14, an air strike near the village of Kurchi, 70km east of the South Kordofan state capital Kadugli, destroyed the home and possessions of Wazir al-Kharaba, the rights groups said.
On August 19, the researchers photographed three bombs falling from an Antonov aircraft near Kurchi, and on August 22, another air strike seriously wounded a man in the leg and an elderly woman in the jaw and damaged a school.
The rights groups said that the researchers had investigated a total of 13 air strikes in the Kauda, Delami and Kurchi areas which had killed at least 26 civilians and wounded more than 45 since mid-June.
No evident military targets were visible near any of the air strike locations the researchers visited.
"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 Human Rights Watch's Africa director Daniel Bekele.
"The international community, and particularly the UN Security Council, must stop looking the other way and act to address the situation.
"Indiscriminate attacks in civilian areas and restrictions on humanitarian aid could amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity," said Amnesty's senior crisis response adviser Donatella Rovera.
The research team completed its visit before the announcement by Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir on August 23 of a unilateral two-week ceasefire by government forces.
But the rights watchdogs said that reports from on the ground suggested that the government was continuing to bomb civilian areas.
South Kordofan remained part of the north when South Sudan became independent in July and fighters from the state's indigenous Nuba peoples who fought alongside southern forces in the 1983 - 2005 civil war have been locked in conflict with government troops since early June.
On Thursday, the US urged the rebels, now renamed the Sudan People's Liberation Army-North, to reciprocate the truce announced by the government and clear the way for talks on the future of both South Kordofan and Blue Nile, another former southern rebel stronghold in the north.
But the same day, campaign group the Enough Project quoted reliable sources as reporting a government air raid near the South Kordofan town of Ungarto.