Residents return to S. Kordofan town as shelling lulls

Report
from Agence France-Presse
Published on 19 Nov 2012

11/19/2012 13:13 GMT

by Ian Timberlake

KHARTOUM, Nov 19, 2012 (AFP) - Sudanese who fled the capital of war-torn South Kordofan state have begun returning, residents say, after a lull in deadly shelling by insurgents.

Kadugli town has since early October endured periodic mortar attacks by the Sudan People's Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N), which said it was targeting military facilities in response to government air raids against civilian property.

The UN children's fund, after what it called "the latest attack on civilians in Kadugli", said on Thursday that shelling of the town since October 8 had killed 18 people and wounded 32.

"Last week there was rumours that SPLM will attack the city. Many people left Kadugli town with their families, even some to Khartoum," one resident said, asking for anonymity.

Even before that, the city had already been "like empty", he said.

Rebel spokesman Arnu Ngutulu Lodi on Thursday said there had been a large exodus from Kadugli, with plainclothes militia remaining.

But the local resident said normality was returning after extra government troops reached the town late last week.

"It was a big convoy," the resident said, adding that he had also seen tanks in the street.

Sudan's army spokesman could not be reached.

"Some families did leave town during the shelling," said another resident, Umar Ahmed. "But now they have started to return after the shelling stopped."

Ahmed described life in the town as routine, with shops and schools open.

"You can see that the city started to return to normal," particularly after the troop reinforcements arrived, the other resident said.

"Some people start to open their shops," he added. "More people are moving in the street."

More than 900,000 people are estimated to be displaced or severely affected by conflict in South Kordofan and in Blue Nile state, where the SPLM-N is also fighting, the UN has said.

The insurgents have reported an upsurge in government bombing and fighting since Sudan and South Sudan signed a deal in September for a demilitarised buffer zone on their undemarcated border designed to cut support for the insurgency.

The ethnic and religious-minority SPLM-N belongs to an alliance of insurgents seeking to overthrow the Islamist Khartoum regime.

They were allies of southern rebels during Sudan's 22-year civil war, which ended with a 2005 peace deal that led to South Sudan's independence in July last year.

Sudan has accused South Sudan of supporting the SPLM-N, a charge analysts believe despite denials by the government in Juba.

Rebel spokesman Lodi could not be reached on Monday.

But the government air raids which rebels say have provoked their shelling of Kadugli continued over the weekend, he said in a statement on Saturday.

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