NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) — A rare video shot by a soldier in a unit nicknamed the "match battalion" shows Sudanese troops burning a village in southern Sudan last year.
The 5-minute cellphone video shows bright orange flames burning through a stick-hut village. One soldier carries a flaming torch as the sound of gunfire cracks in the background.
The video was shared on Monday with The Associated Press by Ryan Boyette, an American who lives in Southern Kordofan, a state in Sudan where rebel fighters often associated with South Sudan are battling troops from the Sudanese Armed Forces.
The video was found on the body of a dead Sudanese soldier, Boyette said. He estimates that the burning of the village — Umbartumbo, in Southern Kordofan — took place last August. The AP could not verify the date or location of the video. Boyette said the video is the first time images of Sudanese troops burning villages have surfaced during the one-year conflict.
Boyette said Monday that SAF forces usually burn villages that it occupies in areas controlled by rebel fighters known by the initials SPLA-N, or Sudan People's Liberation Army-North. The SPLA — without the "N'' for North — is a former rebel movement that is now the legitimate army of the separate nation of South Sudan.
In the cellphone video, gray smoke hangs over the village. The apparent owner of the cellphone poses in front of the camera multiple times. The commander of the troops gives orders in Sudanese Arabic.
"Matches, where are the matches? Burn this house," the commander says, according to translation provided by Boyette, who helps run www.NubaReports.org — a newsgathering website.
Boyette said that Sudanese troops frequently burn villages. The most recent burning, he said, occurred May 20 in the village of Angolo.
Fighting between Sudanese and SPLA-N forces began one year ago. The violence has sent tens of thousands of civilians fleeing for safety. Aid groups have pleaded with Sudan to allow them to operate in Southern Kordofan to help those in need but Sudan continues to ban them from operating.
The fighting is part of the web of violence across the Sudan-South Sudan border. South Sudan broke away from Sudan last July after a peaceful vote. That referendum was the result of a 2005 peace deal that ended decades of fighting between the two Sudans. Despite that accord and last year's peaceful split, violence still hangs over the border region.