S. Kordofan capital shelled in Sudan

AFP , Tuesday 23 Oct 2012

Heavy rebel shelling hits the heart of Sudan's South Kordofan capital

A barrage of shells struck the capital of Sudan's South Kordofan state on Tuesday, witnesses said, after unprecedented rebel firing on the town early this month sparked UN condemnation.

"At 9:00 am (0600 GMT) shells started to come from outside the town, concentrating on the town centre" in Kadugli, one witness told AFP.

"My uncle's house was hit by a shell and burned," said the witness, who had no details of the damage because he was fleeing the area in his car.

"I saw four people injured," he added, asking not to be named.

"I heard about 20 explosions and I saw one shell hit a road-building company," another Kadugli resident said, also without giving his name. "Now most of the residents are fleeing the town centre."

It was not immediately clear who was firing but on 8 October. A surprise artillery barrage by rebels of the Sudan People's Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N) targeted Kadugli.

Seven people were killed in that attack, according to official media, and shelling of the area continued over the following two days.

The United Nations condemned that firing, calling it an indiscriminate and reprehensible act, particularly after a rebel shell landed in the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) compound but failed to explode.

The shelling came after Sudan's Islamist regime and South Sudan in late September signed deals on security and cooperation that they hailed as ending their countries' conflict, which led to a border war in March and April.

Among the deals reached under African Union mediation in Addis Ababa was an agreement on a demilitarised border buffer zone designed to cut support for the SPLM-N.

Sudan accused South Sudan of supporting the SPLM-N, a charge which analysts believe despite denials by the government in Juba.

A Sudan analyst described the earlier shelling as "a show of strength ... a big bang" to get international attention, with more high-profile attacks likely before Wednesday's meeting of the African Union's Peace and Security Council.

The meeting is set to review an AU peace "roadmap" and implementation of a UN Security Council resolution that ordered a ceasefire between Sudan and South Sudan, and settlement of crucial unresolved issues.

Ethnic minority insurgents of the SPLM-N were allies of southern rebels during Sudan's 22-year civil war, which ended with a 2005 peace deal that led to South Sudan's independence in July last year.

After its attack on Kadugli two weeks ago, the ethnic and religious-minority SPLM-N said it regretted any civilian casualties that may have been caused but said its artillery fire was self-defence in the face of government shelling and aerial bombardment of rebel positions.

Fighting in oil-producing South Kordofan started in June last year, followed by a similar conflict in Sudan's Blue Nile state in September 2011.

The war has affected an estimated 900,000 people, but more than a year of talks has failed to clinch agreement on food aid reaching rebel zones where "serious food shortages" are reported, the UN said last Friday.

Short link: