US condemns SAF’s aerial bombardment inside South Sudan

November 10, 2011 (Sudan Tribune)

The United States on Thursday issued a strong condemnation of reported air strikes conducted today by Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) on a refugee camp in South Sudan’s Unity state.

Officials in South Sudan claimed that the air raid by an SAF Antonov fighter killed 12 people and seriously injured more than 20 others. The plane released five bombs at the Yida refugee camp which is believed to be housing more than 15,000 civilians who fled the fighting between Khartoum and Sudan People Liberation Movement North (SPLM-N) in South Kordofan.

Mabeak Lang Bilkuey who is Parieng County Commissioner condemned the attack that took place inside his county describing it as a violation of international boundaries. He likened it to a declaration of war by Khartoum on South Sudan.

Bilkuey told Sudan Tribune that the death rate may exceed the 12 announced so far, noting that the wounded were transported to Parieng county to receive medical treatment.

The official added that the situation has now become a threat to all citizens of South Sudan and accused SAF of carrying atrocities in the state attributing it to “wrong” decisions by Sudanese president Omer Hassan al-Bashir.

Taban Deng, the governor of Unity state, held Bashir responsible for deaths among civilians fleeing the war in South Kordofan.

“President Bashir must be taken to justice and should be answerable to all human right violations in Sudan,” Deng told reporters in Bentiu.

“They [Khartoum] should adhere to international laws and regulations," he added.

But other sources denied reports of casualties in the camp even though they confirmed that bombing took place.

Ryan Boyette, a former aid worker who lives in Sudan who is now leading a team of 15 citizen journalists, told the Associated Press that he spoke to five aid workers in the Yida camp, all of whom said that four bombs were dropped but that they caused no casualties.

He added that a United Nations helicopter had landed on a nearby airstrip right as the first bomb hit. One of the bombs landed in a school yard where about 300 students were attending class, but the bomb did not explode.

A spokesman for the Enough Project, an activist group that works to end genocide, also said the group confirmed there were no dead or wounded.

A Reuters correspondent heard a large explosion in the Yida refugee camp, then saw a crater about two meters (6.6 feet) wide, an unexploded bomb wedged in the side of a school building and a white aircraft flying north. Witnesses said there were three further explosions at 3pm (1200 GMT).

SAF spokesperson Al-Sawarmi Khalid Sa’ad denied carrying out any air attacks against Sudan’s southern neighbour.

"This information is completely false. We didn’t bomb any camps or any areas inside the borders of South Sudan," Sa’ad told Agence France Presse (AFP).

"What is going on in South Sudan belongs to the southerners. We don’t have any links to this," he added.

The Sudan people Liberation Army (SPLA) spokesperson, Philip Aguer, told AFP that Upper Nile state, which like Unity state has seen thousands of civilians flee across its poorly defined border with South Kordofan, had also been targeted by SAF air strikes.

"Two places have been bombed today. One is Yida, a place for refugees from South Kordofan. The other place is called Marenji, in Upper Nile," near the site of another deadly bombing raid on Tuesday, he told AFP.

Yesterday, South Sudan’s president Salva Kiir spoke out about the Upper Nile attack saying it killed no less than seven people.

He also slammed Bashir’s threat of war against South Sudan made last week in retaliation to support he said the new nation is providing to SPLM-N rebels battling Khartoum.

This month Sudan lodged its second complaint in 2011 with the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) detailing accounts supporting its assertions that South Sudan is providing military support to the anti-government rebels in Blue Nile and South Kordofan.

Kiir denied the accusations again today, telling reporters they were "a prelude from Khartoum to justify their pending actions against South Sudan."

"Tomorrow, when Bashir invades South Sudan, then he will say yes, he took the action to revenge what was being done to him. They want to engage South Sudan in wars, meaningless wars," he said.

The White House described SAF aerial attacks as an “outrageous act” and that those responsible must be held accountable for their actions.

“These provocative aerial bombardments greatly increase the potential for direct confrontation between Sudan and South Sudan,” the statement said.

“The United States demands the Government of Sudan halt aerial bombardments immediately. We urge the Government of South Sudan to exercise restraint in responding to this provocation to prevent further escalation of hostilities.”


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