By South Sudan News Staff
Juba — June 12 (SSN) … The Sudanese armed forces have burned and shot civilians to death in a “scorched earth” campaign against a rebel chief’s home district in Blue Nile state, Amnesty International reports.
Satellite imagery confirms that the attacks in Blue Nile’s Ingessana Hills, the birthplace of rebel Chairman Malik Agar, occurred in the first half of last year, the London-based watchdog said in a 74-page report released on Tuesday.
The Sudan’s army called the charges a fabrication. The attacks were part of what appeared to be “a concerted attempt” to clear civilians from areas held by Agar’s Sudan People’s Liberation
Movement-North, and to punish residents perceived to be supporting
the rebels, the human rights group said.
The Ingessana area, southwest of the state capital Ed Damazin, was particularly hard-hit, Amnesty said, after visiting rebel-held areas and interviewing refugees.
About 150,000 people have fled to South Sudan or Ethiopia since fighting began in September 2011.
“The Sudan army used scorched-earth tactics, destroying at least eight villages in the (Ingessana) area and probably many more,” Amnesty said.
“Sudanese forces would bomb and shell villages before invading and burning them down” after using indiscriminate firepower, it said.
“Civilians fled when the attacks began, but some of those who were unable to flee because of disability or age were burned alive in their homes or shot by soldiers.”
Amnesty’s Sudan researcher, Jean-Baptiste Gallopin, said in a statement that deliberately attacking civilians is a war crime.
“This systematic and deliberate targeting of civilians follows a disturbing pattern that was used by the Sudanese government to devastating effect in Darfur,” said Gallopin.
The Sudanese government continues to block humanitarian relief to civilians in rebel-held areas.
“By taking the unconscionable decision to bar humanitarian aid, the Sudanese government is once again causing civilian deaths and suffering on a massive scale,” said Gallopin.
“The international community has failed to enforce the International Criminal Court’s indictment of President Omar al-Bashir who is wanted on charges of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes committed in Darfur. The ongoing violations in Blue Nile demonstrate yet again that it is civilians who pay the price when impunity for war crimes goes unchecked.”