US Condemns Sudanese Bombing Raids

July 7, 2008 - 8:08 PM

Nairobi (CNSNews.com) - The United States Thursday condemned the renewed bombing of civilian targets and international relief centers by Sudanese government warplanes.

Analysts described the latest Sudanese action as a sign of frustration at its recent failure to be elected to the UN Security Council by a majority of General Assembly members.

Government planes reportedly bombed two relief centers in the south of the country Wednesday, killing at least six people and injuring 32.

The affected areas are located in the country's civil war- and drought-ravaged southern regions where the bombing has severely disrupted an ongoing polio vaccination campaign sponsored by the United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF).

"The deliberate bombing of international relief centers is clear proof that the Khartoum regime does not respect human rights and should be condemned by the entire international community," a US Embassy spokesman in Nairobi said.

"This buttresses the US stand that the Sudan government, besides condoning international terrorism, does not have respect for human rights and international protocols which it is a signatory to," added the spokesman who asked not to be identified.

The US earlier this month spearheaded a successful campaign against Sudan's bid for a rotating seat on the Security Council. Washington backed Mauritius as an alternative for the African seat, saying Khartoum would not be an appropriate member of the Council.

"The Sudanese government politicians are venting their anger and frustration on innocent people and organizations after the country was recently denied an opportunity to be elected to the United Nations Security Council," said Professor David Ayako of the Institute of African Studies at the University of Nairobi.

The UN's World Food Program confirmed it operated one of the centers bombed. The other belongs to UNICEF, and it was set up specifically to administer polio vaccinations.

"We have information that some of our distribution centers were bombed by government forces," said Lilian Oti, a WFP representative in Nairobi.

"A team has been sent to the ground to ascertain the truth. After that, we shall be in a position of making a comprehensive report," she said.

The main rebel movement fighting the Khartoum government, the Sudan Peoples' Liberation Army, said the attacks violated a 10-day ceasefire agreement to allow UNICEF to carry out its drive to immunize about 4.5 million Sudanese children against polio.

"These were not military targets," SPLA spokesman George Garang was quoted as saying. "This is a criminal act. We appeal to the international community to put pressure on the government to stop these air raids."

"The two parties had assured us they would observe a period of tranquility during the immunization days," UNICEF representative Thomas Ekvall said.

However, Sudan's ambassador to Kenya, Farouk Ali, described the report as baseless, aimed at tarnishing the Sudanese name and frustrating its demands "for the lifting of UN sanctions unfairly imposed on our country."

A UNICEF spokesman in Nairobi, Patrick Munga, said the organization's executive director, Carol Bellamy, would visit Sudan on Friday to give a boost to the anti-polio campaign. She would fly to areas controlled by the rebels and the government, he said, adding that the bombing would not affect the visit.

Sudan's southern rebels have been fighting since 1983 for autonomy for the largely Christian and animist south from the predominantly Muslim north. Nearly 2 million people have died in the civil war and related famine.

Abuses

Earlier this week, a UN-appointed human rights investigator for Sudan accused the Khartoum government of committing serious human rights violations by systematically bombing civilians and civilian installations.

Leonardo Franco said in a report that bombings this year had killed an estimated 45 people and injured around 230 others.

He said at least 33 bombing incidents were reported in July and that relief agencies had been targeted in August.

Franco said in a report to the UN General Assembly that the dramatic escalation of military hostilities over the past few months had led to abuses on both sides.

In addressing SPLA abuses, he accused the rebels of forcibly recruiting children and planting land mines.