Sudanese government denies bombing civilians in Nuba mountains

April 20, 2001 (AFP)

The Sudanese government denied Friday reports that it had twice bombed civilians earlier this week, killing two of them, as they were gathered at an airstrip in the Nuba Mountains of central Sudan.

Army spokesman General Mohamed Beshir Suleiman also denied rebel Sudanese People's Liberation Army (SPLA) claims that it has seized control of five areas in the Sudan's southeastern Blue Nile province after battles that killed hundreds of government troops.

SPLA spokesman Samson Kwaje said Wednesday that two people - Yusuf Hassan and El-Amin Kuku - died when Antonov planes dropped 14 bombs at Kauda airstrip near a Roman Catholic missionary school two days earlier.

On Tuesday, the Antonov planes again dropped eight bombs at Changaru, near the airstrip, wounding a student named Salah Hassan, Kwaje said.

General Suleiman said Kwaje allegations were "baseless." Meanwhile, referring to the rebel claims about Blue Nile, General Suleiman said only that an "army reconnaissance unit had clashed with rebels at an SPLA position" in the province."

He said the unit had successfully completed its mission of collecting intelligence on rebel arms and materiel.

Since 1983, Sudan, Africa's largest country, has been wracked by a civil war pitting the Arab Muslim north against the mainly Christian and animist south in a conflict increasingly fuelled by natural resources such as oil.

The war has left one million people dead and displaced millions of others, some fleeing into exile.