Khartoum announces resumption of bombings

12 June, 2001 (IRIN)

The Sudanese government on Monday announced its intention to resume air strikes in the south of the country and in the Nubah Mountains.

A statement from the Sudanese foreign ministry said the government was resuming bomb attacks to "defend itself in the face of continued aggression" from the Sudan People's Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A). The rebel movement had last week launched an operation against regions which had been safe for many years, the statement added.

Muhammad Dirdiery, spokesman for the Sudanese Embassy in Nairobi, told IRIN that the Khartoum government was still committed to ending the bombings in the south and the Nubah Mountains, but would use air strikes on specific targets in fighting zones because of the recent SPLA offensive in Bahr al-Ghazal. The government would do its best to avoid populated areas, he added.

Khartoum had on 24 May announced that it was halting bomb attacks against the SPLM/A in southern Sudan and the Nubah Mountains, but that it reserved the right to "repulse any aggression from whatever quarter seeks to score any field victory through the exploitation of this decision."

The SPLA's Bahr al-Ghazal offensive has led to its capture of the strategic town of Raga. The rebels also claim to have taken control of the whole of western Bahr al-Ghazal. An estimated 30,000 civilians have been displaced in the state, according to the UN.

SPLM/A spokesman Samson Kwaje told IRIN on Tuesday that there had never been a halt to the air strikes. "The announcement [to halt air strikes] was made on 24 May, and on 25 May they bombed Tonj. On 26 May they bombed Awada," he said. "They did not halt the bombings," Kwaje added.

Monday's announcement by the government that air strikes were to be resumed was "somewhat disingenuous" since there had been at least 11 aerial attacks on civilian targets during the so-called ceasefire period, according to humanitarian sources in close contact with South Sudan.