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War opens on third front in Sudan

September 2 - 2011 DAMAZIN

Blue Nile witnesses heavy clashes and aerial bombardments as thousands flee Sudan’s armed forces clashed with the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) in Blue Nile State on Thursday. The fighting opens a third battle front in North Sudan where conflict is still ongoing in South Kordofan and Darfur. Both sides accused each other of starting the fighting.

The Armed Forces said that the SPLA forces attacked the Sudanese army in the state capital of Damazin at several points, including the South Gate and the industrial area. They also reported fighting outside of Damazin in the towns of Dindiro, Um Darfa, Ulu, and Wad Al Mahi.

The military’s spokesman, Colonel Al Sawarmi Khaled Saad, issued a statement that the Armed Forces managed to repel the attack by ‘rebels’ and seized control entirely of the city of Damazin and other locations. He said the forces continued to secure the state and chase what he called ‘remnants of the insurgency.’

The SPLA denied having taken the offensive, saying, on the contrary, that the Armed Forces had carried out an attack on the SPLA forces in Damazin. Mohamed Ahmed, an officer of moral orientation in the SPLA in Blue Nile, said that the government forces used all kinds of weapons in densely populated parts of the city, so the SPLA forces withdrew from the city for fear that fighting would endanger the lives of civilians. 

Ahmed also accused the army of bombing the home of Governor-elect Malik Aggar and of carrying out a campaign of mass arrests against official post-holders within the movement. According to a statement attributed to Yasser Arman, Secretary-General of SPLM-North, an entire brigade had surrounded Damazin equipped with 12 tanks and 40 vehicles loaded with Dushka heavy guns. He said their targets were “citizens, the SPLA, and the governor’s house.”   

A Blue Nile resident told Radio Dabanga that more than 5000 civilians fled the city of Damazin to the areas of Sennar and Singa after the clashes erupted in Damazin. He also named a number of areas that reportedly suffered aerial bombardment by the Sudan Air Force. He said that two women were injured by a bomb in Direnk in Blue Nile State. The civilian source referred to the areas that were bombed as areas with concentrations of civilians and completely void of any military presence. Mohamed Ahmed, the SPLM officer, made the same accusation.

Among those to react to the events in Blue Nile were the armed movements based in Darfur.  The Sudan Liberation Movement condemned the ‘aggression’ of government forces against militia against the citizens of Blue Nile and the governor-elect.  Nimr Abdel Rahman, official spokesman of the SLM Abdel Wahid faction, affirmed ‘full solidarity’ with the people of the Blue Nile and urged that they work together to bring down the regime, which they described as racist and unrepresentative of the people of Sudan.

The Justice and Equality Movement strongly condemned the ‘brutal attack’ launched by the regime’s troops and militias in the state of Blue Nile.  In a written statement, the movement said the attack “underlines the lack of desire of the racist Khartoum regime to move forward towards a peaceful settlement of the conflict, and shows that they have chosen military solutions instead.  The movement warned that regime would again commit crimes of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity, as it already did in Darfur and Southern Kordofan.  Speaking to Radio Dabanga, Jibril Adam Bilal, the JEM spokesman, said that the movement is fully prepared to cooperate to rid the Sudan of the ruling regime of the National Congress Party, which he described as racist. Bilal also called for the citizens of the Eastern region to unite and mobilize their fighters to defend their gains in the region.

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