Ten Killed as Sudanese Government Raids Southern Town
At least 10 people have been killed, six of them over the weekend, in Sudanese government bombing raids on the southern town of Raga, which fell to rebels earlier this month, the Roman Catholic church said Wednesday.
A mother and her baby were among those killed in an air strike on Sunday, according to Bishop Caesar Mazzalori of Rumbek Diocese, his diocese said in a statement released in Nairobi, and cited by AFP.
Four other people were killed when a Russian-made Antonov plane bombed the town on June 6 and 7.
"This is really diabolical, considering that so far the Sudanese government has continued to deny humanitarian agencies access to Raga," said Mazzolari, who on Tuesday visited the town, taken by the Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA) on June 2.
The Roman Catholic cleric said that Sunday's air strike took place in the afternoon and involved between seven and nine bombs, which were dropped along a straight line on a strictly civilian section of the town.
He said the bomber aircraft had flew low over the town as if to identify its intended targets.
Mazzolari said that Khartoum, which has been at war with the SPLA since 1983, had bombed Raga several times since they lost the town.
Khartoum announced on June 11 that its armed forces were "resuming air strikes" in southern Sudan "to defend itself in the face of continued aggression" by rebels, after the SPLA captured several towns.
Separately, Sudanese opposition leaders opened a meeting in Cairo on Tuesday in what a spokesman described as a "last-chance" bid to coordinate African and Arab initiatives to end an 18-year civil war in Sudan.
Leaders of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA), an umbrella organization for the southern rebels and northern opposition groups, gathered in the Egyptian capital to focus on the east African IGAD initiative and a joint proposal by Egypt and Libya.
"This is the last chance to reach a concrete proposal for coordinating the two initiatives," because of new developments in the civil war and time lost since an Arab proposal was floated two years ago, NDA spokesman Hatem Al Sir Ali said.
The southern rebels in the SPLA, the most powerful group within the NDA, have dramatically strengthened their position near the government oil-producing regions in south-central Unity State, said the agency.
SPLA leader John Garang, whose forces have fought Sudan's Arab Muslim north since 1983, advocates a confederate state with two separate constitutions, so that animists and Christians will not be subject to Islamic law.
Khartoum insists on pushing for Islamic law throughout Sudan, and has rejected SPLA demands that it stop pumping oil as a condition for a ceasefire. The rebels say the government is using oil revenues to wage the war.
In August 1999, Egypt and Libya launched a joint peace initiative for Sudan, which calls for reconciliation among all Sudanese factions.
It follows one launched in 1993 by the Kenyan-based, east African Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD), which seeks to reconcile the government and the Sudan People's Liberation Movement/Army.
Garang has said the pre-existing IGAD peace drive will take precedence for the SPLA, unless the two initiatives are merged.
Garang was not present for the three-day conference of the NDA leadership council in Cairo, with some Sudanese participants saying his absence undermined the chances of its success.
However, SPLM/A officials said their group was well represented at the meeting.
Last Wednesday, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak met two Sudanese rebel leaders who gave him their perspective on the latest developments in the war-torn Arab African country.
Mubarak received Mohammed Osman Al Mirghani, chairman of the NDA, and Garang.
Press reports did not elaborate on the content of the meeting, but a spokesman for Garang, Yasser Arman, had said earlier that the meeting would confirm "the strong ties between the Sudanese opposition and the leadership and people of Egypt."
Arman said the joint visit by the two opposition leaders "gives a strong hope to the Sudanese people that the unity of Sudan on a new basis of equality is possible, regardless of race, religion, sex, gender or region." – Albawaba.com
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