London, Asharq Al-Awsat—The Sudanese government and insurgents exchanged accusations that the other side has been targeting civilians in South Kordofan following unrest in the region this week.
At least 24 were killed and 30 injured after the Sudanese military shelled villages in South Kordofan, Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) spokesman Arno Ngutolo Lodi told Asharq Al-Awsat. He added that thousands of people have fled their homes in the disputed region, fearing more violence.
The latest unrest came after Sudanese Defense Minister Mohamed Hussein pledged to crush rebellion in South Kordofan and Darfur after peace talks between the two sides failed.
The conflict between SPLM insurgents and the government over disputed territory in the Blue Nile and South Kordofan has been raging since 2011.
In exclusive comments to Asharq Al-Awsat, the SPLM spokesman said that militias loyal to Sudanese President Omar Al-Bashir regime have burned entire villages in South Kordofan, forcing people to take refuge in the nearby mountains.
Lodi said that those who have fled the regime’s shelling require urgent aid, adding that Khartoum is preventing humanitarian aid from reaching civilians and refusing to open humanitarian corridors.
The regime has shelled the villages of Shamshaka, Al-Hajir and Tera in South Kordofan over the past three days, destroying at least 900 houses, Lodi said.
“These are systematic war crimes and acts of state terrorism,” he added.
The SPLM spokesman also blamed the international community for remaining silent on the regime’s crimes. He said: “Al-Bashir publicly announced—and the whole world heard him—that he would launch a broad military campaign before the end of the year, and he is now carrying out his criminal acts of genocide and ethnic cleansing against civilians.”
For his part, Sudanese Artillery Commander Brig. Gen. Mohamed Angar announced that the Sudanese army would establish peace across Sudan, including through the use of force. He added that “insurgents” had rejected the government’s call for peace and dialogue.
Angar said that the Sudanese Army has no choice but to fight the insurgents in South Kordofan, and that it will continue its military operations because the militants pose a threat to state security.
Angar also claimed that SPLM forces are targeting civilians and villages.
In a statement issued on Tuesday, the International Crisis Group said: “Seven years after the signing of the Eastern Sudan Peace Agreement, the conflict’s root causes remain and in some respects are more acute, due to the failure to implement many of the agreement’s core provisions.”
The group called on the government to “draft a new constitution, a truly comprehensive national mechanism” to end the raging conflicts across the country.