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[Dehai-WN] NYTimes.com: In Sudan's Nuba Mountains, Government Rocket Attacks Sow Fear, Witnesses Say

From: Berhane Habtemariam <Berhane.Habtemariam_at_gmx.de_at_dehai.org>
Date: Thu, 15 Mar 2012 00:29:16 +0100

In Sudan's Nuba Mountains, Government Rocket Attacks Sow Fear, Witnesses Say

man/index.html?inline=nyt-per> JEFFREY GETTLEMAN

Published: March 14, 2012

NAIROBI, Kenya - Ryan Boyette, an American aid worker living in one of the
most active war zones in Africa -
dan/index.html?inline=nyt-geo> Sudan's Nuba Mountains - was in a thatch-roof
office on a clear January day when he heard two thunderous blasts.

The explosions were not preceded by the usual growl of aging Antonov
aircraft. The Sudanese military has been
<http://www.nytimes.com/2011/07/01/world/africa/01sudan.html> relentlessly
bombing the Nuba Mountains since June, killing hundreds of civilians, trying
to quash a dug-in rebel movement. At the faintest sound of approaching
aircraft, many Nuban people
<http://www.nytimes.com/2011/07/04/world/africa/04sudan.html> scramble up
the steep, stony mountainsides to take cover in caves. But that day, silence
preceded the two loud bangs that jolted Mr. Boyette, giving no time to run.

When Mr. Boyette, 30, dashed out to the blast site, he found his wife,
Jazira, stunned, and many children crying.

"Rockets," the locals told him. "That was the rockets."

The Sudanese Army, according to aid workers such as Mr. Boyette and weapons
experts in East Africa, has begun using long-range, Chinese-made rockets to
bombard the Nuba Mountains, adding a new weapon to an increasingly unsparing
counterinsurgency strategy.

The rockets, fired from more than 25 miles away, travel at 3,000 miles per
hour and pack a 330-pound warhead often loaded with steel ball bearings to
increase lethality, experts say. Where they land is random, witnesses say,
and they often slam into villages instead of legitimate military targets.

"They arrive without any warning," said Helen Hughes, an arms control
researcher at Amnesty International. "And they are being used
indiscriminately, which is violation of international humanitarian law."

According to Mr. Boyette, more than 70 rockets have been fired into the Nuba
Mountains since December, killing 18 people, including several children.

From photographs of bomb sites and remains of the rocket motors, Western
experts have identified the rockets as Chinese-manufactured Weishi
truck-launched rockets. China is one of Sudan's closest strategic allies,
buying billions of dollars of Sudanese oil and selling Sudan advanced

The Sudanese government does not deny using rockets in the Nuba Mountains,
insisting that they are a legitimate weapon.

"Rockets are part of combat," said Al-Sawarmi Khalid, a Sudanese military
spokesman. "And the armed groups also use the same rockets and weapons we

Witnesses in the Nuba Mountains said the rebels used a much smaller,
shorter-range rocket, and only during battles.

The government rockets are the latest twist in one of Africa's more
intractable conflicts. Tens of thousands of rebel fighters in the Nuba
Mountains refuse to disarm, saying that they are fighting for more autonomy
from a government that has marginalized and persecuted them. The Sudanese
government's response has been to lay siege to the area: bombarding it,
cutting off the roads, blocking emergency supplies and most aid workers and
outside observers.

Some analysts see similarities between the brutal tactics used in Nuba and
those employed in Darfur, in Sudan's west, during the height of the violence
there several years ago.

The Nuba conflict is complicated by the separation of South Sudan from Sudan
in July. The Nuban fighters were historically allied to the south but after
South Sudan's independence found themselves just north of the new border, in
hostile territory.

 <http://www.satsentinel.org/blog/citizen-journalists-frontline-sudan> Mr.
Boyette, the aid worker, is one of the only Westerners providing battlefield
updates. He came to the area several years ago to work for an American aid
organization, married a local woman and refused to leave once the conflict

Sudan and South Sudan are divided over oil, having not yet come up with an
agreement of how to share oil profits. While 75 percent of the oil is in the
south, the pipeline to export it runs through the north. On Tuesday, Reuters
reported that in the coming weeks Sudan's president, Omar Hassan al-Bashir,
would make his first visit to South Sudan since the country gained
independence to meet with South Sudan's president, Salva Kiir.

Isma'il Kushkush contributed reporting from Khartoum, Sudan.


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