Rebels Say Sudanese Bomber Kills 13 Pupils

By Kieran Murray

NAIROBI (Reuters) - Sudanese rebels said a government plane killed at least 13 children on Tuesday in an air attack on an elementary school in the famed Nuba Mountains.

The Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA) said an Antonov plane dropped six bombs onto the grounds of the school in the Nuba Mountains, the home of a rich traditional culture but also a major battlefield in Sudan's 17-year-old civil war.

''They have killed 13 people on the spot. All of them were students. Very many more are reported injured,'' SPLA spokesman Samson Kwaje told Reuters in the Kenyan capital Nairobi.

He said the Kaouda Elementary School, which was set up by an SPLA-backed group, has 600 students aged between six and 13.

''They were in their classes when the bombing began and when they ran outside, they were killed inside the school compound,'' he said, adding that another four bombs landed near the school.

Government officials were not immediately available and the allegations could not be independently confirmed.

Kwaje said the Sudanese government last month declared a three-month comprehensive cease-fire for all fronts of the civil war and that Tuesday's alleged attack demonstrated it was not interested in peace.

He said the SPLA would not pull out of peace talks scheduled for later this month in Nairobi, but would stress to mediators that the government in Khartoum could not be trusted.

The Nuba Mountains lie in central Sudan and have seen some of the fiercest fighting and counter-insurgency campaigns since the civil war erupted in 1983.

Nuba Have Rich Culture

The Nuba tribe of pastoralists are best known for intricate body painting, stick fighting and wrestling.

They were immortalized in ''The Last of the Nuba,'' a 1973 photographic book by Leni Riefenstahl, the influential German filmmaker who won notoriety for her Nazi-era documentary films.

Riefenstahl, who is now 97 and has often expressed irritation that her name is linked with Nazi Germany, said last week she planned to travel back to the Nuba Mountains and ''try to find a way to help them.''

Most Nuba share the Islamic religion of the Khartoum government but many say they have more in common with their African brothers to the south.

Broadly speaking, Sudan's war pits the Islamic and Arab north against the south, which is overwhelmingly black and either Christian or animist.

It is a conflict in which some 1.5 million people have died, either in fighting or through war-related famine and disease.

Both the government and the SPLA control territory inside the Nuba mountains and neither side has been prepared to give up its claim to the region.

No foreign aid organizations have been allowed to provide humanitarian support for the Nuba although the United Nations has been pushing for change and hopes to fly critical supplies into the region soon.


Reuters - Thomson Reuters Foundation
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