Thu, Feb 17, 2011 - Page 7 News List

Khartoum-backed rebels killed 211: Southern Sudan

AP, JUBA, Sudan

A top political leader in Southern Sudan has accused the northern government of backing southern rebels who killed 211 people.

Macabre video showed the bodies of victims being pulled from a muddy river and piled into a mass grave.

The attack by rebel leader George Athor happened last week, and officials then said 105 people — including 30 of Athor’s men — died.

However, on Tuesday the toll was raised to 241, most of them civilians.

The victims were chased into a river by Athor’s men, where some were shot and others drowned, Southern Sudan Humanitarian Affairs and Disaster Management Minister James Kok Ruea said.

“It was a massacre because they are all civilians who did not have defenses,” Ruea said. “Some of them were [southerners] who just returned from northern Sudan. Innocent children, women, and elderly people who could not defend themselves.”

Pagan Amum, who heads the Southern Peoples’ Liberation Movement, the political arm of Southern Sudan’s ruling party, on Tuesday blamed the Khartoum government for arming and financing rebel leaders in the south.

“As we emerge out of instability and war there are forces that have been subjugating Southern Sudan,” Amum said. “These forces are still there. Today armed groups are being financed, being armed, being sent to Southern Sudan from the north. You know that George Athor who just caused the massacre in Fangak, his guns are coming from Khartoum.”

The accusations come one month after Southern Sudan voted to secede from northern Sudan, a split that is scheduled to occur in July.

Ruea, who is from Fangak County, traveled to the site of the attack last Friday, the day after it ended. Gruesome video footage shot by staff from his ministry show a community rescue effort, with men dragging bloated bodies out of a river where civilians had fled to escape the attack.

Survivors who were transported on Tuesday to a hospital in the southern capital of Juba said that Athor’s men fired on people running into the river.

The video footage showed men and women dead from bullet wounds lying in a mass grave and on a roadside.

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