Mon, Jun 20, 2011 - Page 6 News List

Major offensive possible in Sudan conflict: monitors


Fresh satellite images show the army amassing heavy weaponry in the capital of Sudan’s embattled northern oil state, suggesting that a major offensive could occur soon, monitors said on Saturday.

“New imagery from the Satellite Sentinel Project, or SSP, confirms that the Sudan Armed Forces [northern army — SAF] control the town of Kadugli in Sudan’s tense border region of South Kordofan, and that thousands of civilians have been displaced,” the monitors said. “The images support reports from the ground that SAF soldiers remain locked in a tense conflict with elements of the Sudan People’s Liberation Army [of the south — SPLA] in South Kordofan.”

“The images reveal that SAF’s deployment of forces is consistent with UN documents indicating that a major SAF offensive could occur soon,” they added.

The US monitoring group, which was set up by Hollywood star and rights activist George Clooney last year, said the satellite images that were taken on Friday were the first to show thousands of people seeking shelter around the main UN compound near Kadugli.

Heavy fighting has raged across South Kordofan since June 5 between the SAF and northern troops aligned with the SPLA that Khartoum has vowed to crush using all available means, including air strikes and heavy artillery.

Sudanese church leaders and activists say the army’s campaign forms part of a government policy of “ethnic cleansing,” targeting South Kordofan’s indigenous Nuba peoples who fought with the SPLA during the 1983 to 2005 civil war.

Eyewitnesses have described scenes of terror and carnage in Kadugli, with pro-government forces executing suspected sympathizers of the southern-aligned troops during house-to-house searches, and dead bodies lying in the streets.

The conflict has so far caused more than 60,000 people to flee their homes, according to UN estimates, including 30,000 children, amid ongoing fighting that the UN humanitarian office says has “seriously compromised” the delivery of emergency aid.

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