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Sudan rebel mortar fire kills 2 children

2012-10-23 19:08

Khartoum - Rebel shelling killed two children in the capital of Sudan's South Kordofan state on Tuesday, the army said, in what insurgents called retaliation for government air raids on villages.

The attack, confirmed by witnesses, was the second this month by the Sudan People's Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N) against the capital Kadugli. On 8 October seven women and children were killed in an unprecedented barrage.

"I just want to confirm to you that there is a response from the SPLM-N this morning," Arnu Ngutulu Lodi, spokesperson for the ethnic and religious-minority rebels, told AFP.

"We are responding with mortars."

The army reported that two children were killed and eight people wounded, but analysts say casualty figures from either side in the war should be treated with caution.

A witness in Kadugli said he saw four people hurt by the shells that came from outside the capital and landed around the town centre from 09:00 (06:00 GMT).

"My uncle's house was hit by a shell and burned," said the witness, asking not to be named.

"I heard about 20 explosions and I saw one shell hit a road-building company," another Kadugli resident said, also without giving his name. "Now most of the residents are fleeing the town centre."

Lodi, in a statement on Monday, said rebels targeted the capital after recent "indiscriminate" government air raids.

Aerial bombardments

"Between 18th and 21st October... the villages of El Labu, Tablu, El Hibeel, El Atmour and Umm Serdiba in the locality of Umm Durain and the town of El Buram, were under extensive aerial bombardments," he said.

The bombs mainly hit farms and livestock but three children were wounded, the statement said, vowing to use "all possible offensive scenarios" against government forces.

"We have heard also that there was some aerial bombing outside Kadugli and then, following that, there were some mortar shells landing in Kadugli," said Damian Rance, a public information officer with the UN humanitarian agency in Khartoum.

Since fighting began in oil-producing South Kordofan in June last year there have been repeated allegations, denied by Khartoum, that civilians have been bombed from the air.

Sawarmi Khaled Saad, the Sudanese Army Forces (SAF) spokesperson, told AFP that rebels shelled three checkpoints outside Kadugli but one shell fell inside the town, causing the casualties.

"SAF are now on a big offensive to find these rebels hidden inside the hills," he said.

Asked about allegations of aerial bombing, he said: "We are searching for them by all means."

Sudan's Islamist regime and South Sudan signed deals on security and oil in late September, that they hailed as ending a conflict, which led to a border war in March and April.

Among the deals reached under African Union mediation in Addis Ababa was an agreement on a demilitarised border buffer zone designed to cut support for the insurgents.

Sudan accused South Sudan of supporting the SPLM-N, a charge which analysts believe despite denials by the government in Juba.

Allies

A diplomatic source said on Tuesday that neither the rebels nor the Sudanese government have an interest in a political solution to the conflict.

He said the shelling was an escalation of the violence which will be a trial for the new post-Addis relationship between Sudan and South Sudan.

"The north will test the South to see if they interfere or not," he said on condition of anonymity.

The shelling comes before a key meeting on Wednesday of the African Union's Peace and Security Council, which is set to review an AU peace "roadmap" and implementation of a UN Security Council resolution. The UN ordered a ceasefire between Sudan and South Sudan and settlement of crucial unresolved issues.

The SPLM-N were allies of southern rebels during Sudan's 22-year civil war, which ended with a 2005 peace deal that led to South Sudan's independence in July last year.

SPLM-N has also been fighting in Sudan's Blue Nile state since September 2011.

The wars in South Kordofan and Blue Nile have affected an estimated 900 000 people, but more than a year of talks has failed to clinch agreement on food aid for rebel zones where "serious food shortages" are reported, the UN said Friday.