US embassy condemns Sudan rebels' recent offensive

May 1, 2013 (Sudan Tribune)

The US embassy in Khartoum said it deplores the recent attacks by the Sudan Revolutionary Front (SRF) in Um Rawaba and nearby villages in North Kordofan, calling for an immediate cessation of hostilities.

"We sadly note reports of widespread looting, destruction of non-military infrastructure crucial for local residents, and victimisation of civilians by combatants, and we call on all sides to exercise restraint and not to target civilians", the embassy said in a statement extended to Sudan Tribune on Tuesday.

SRF rebels launched a surprise attack on Um Rawaba last Saturday, storming the town utilising 150 vehicles and killing nine policemen, including a lieutenant, before withdrawing later in the day.

The attack drew condemnations from regional bodies such as the African Union, Arab League and the Organization of Islamic cooperation.

The embassy said that the US also remains deeply concerned about ongoing aerial bombardments of civilian areas by government forces in Darfur, Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile.

It has also called on the Sudanese government to allow humanitarian access to civilians affected by the conflict.

There have been calls for Sudanese defence minister Abdel-Rahim Mohamed Hussein to stand down in the wake of the rebels' brief occupation of Um Rawaba, which lies 500km south of the capital Khartoum.

Further attacks on four towns near the South Kordofan capital city of Kadugli were claimed by the Sudan People's Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N).

The attacks came as the Sudanese government and the SPLM-N held their first direct talks since 2011 last week in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa. However, negotiations were adjourned until later this month without success in bridging outstanding differences between the two sides.

The SPLM-N fought alongside its South Sudanese allies during the protracted north-south civil war and has led an insurgency against the Khartoum government since 2011 in the Sudanese border states of South Kordofan and Blue Nile.

"We encourage the parties to rely on the mechanisms in place to achieve a cessation of hostilities, such as the recently launched AUHIP [African Union High-Level Implementation Panel]-sponsored talks between the SPLM-North and the government of Sudan, which we hope will result in unfettered humanitarian access into Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile and an immediate cessation of hostilities", the embassy said in its statement.

"We also call for the resolution of these conflicts through a constitutional process and national dialogue that addresses their root causes", it added.

According to eyewitnesses in Um Rawaba, SRF descended on the city from three directions, forcing authorities to shut down the main highway which connects Khartoum to the White Nile and North Kordofan states.

Rebels reportedly destroyed the communications tower and electricity station in Um Rawaba, as well as attacking a number of banks and looting civilian property and gas stations.

SRF is an alliance between Sudanese factions opposed to the government led by president Omer Hassan al-Bashir and brings together the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) and the two main factions of the Sudan Liberation Movement, all of which remain active in Darfur, as well as the SPLM-N.


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