Eight aid workers from a consortium of relief agencies in southern Sudan were killed on Thursday evening by attackers believed to be rebels of the Ugandan Lord's Resistance Army (LRA), the Norwegian Church Aid (NCA) told to IRIN on Monday. "The eight were on a joint relief and rehabilitation assessment mission in the area around Magwi, Imoruk and Obbo," NCA Country Director for south Sudan Kristen Flogstad told IRIN. "They were attacked some 7 km from the NCA camp in Parajok," he said. They were among 11 members of the mission. "The car was set on fire but preliminary investigations have shown that the attackers used tank missiles, grenades and fired more than 100 shots," he said. There were between 50-70 attackers moving from Uganda in five columns, including women and children, he added. "They crossed in through the same point LRA rebels have been using for many years and the weapons they used were typical LRA weapons," Flogstad said.
He said there were close to 5,000 displaced people in the area. "Although it would have not been advisable to travel, there must have been a lot of pressure on the aid workers considering the displaced in need," he said. "It is very tragic for us, and even more for the local community who have lost six of their own." Flogstad noted that the incident would make it difficult to implement NCA's plans in Parajok and the Acholi corridor and assist the local population. "This is a setback after an improvement in the security situation last year," he added. Among the dead were two Sudan Relief and Rehabilitation Association (SRRA) workers, one from the African Inland Church (AIC), three from the Episcopal Church of Sudan and two from NCA. Three others were seriously injured.
SPLA increases security
The rebel Sudan People's Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A) expressed concern over the incident and said it had stepped up security in the area. "Most of the victims are our people, we know them by name," SPLM/A spokesman Samson Kwaje told IRIN on Monday. "We have beefed up security in the area and sent out some of our men in pursuit of the attackers." He said the Khartoum government had put pressure on the LRA rebels to leave Sudan but "surprisingly these LRA rebels were coming from Uganda into Sudan".
UN official "deeply saddened" by murder of CARE workers
OCHA's acting Emergency Relief Coordinator Carolyn McAskie last week voiced concern over the killing in Sudan earlier this month of two humanitarian aid workers with CARE International and the abduction of two others. The four were on their way to Mayom in the Upper Nile area to open a health centre when their vehicle was ambushed by unknown assailants. In a statement McAskie said she was "deeply saddened and seriously concerned" by the incident. CARE said this was the most serious and violent incident against its staff in Sudan during the 20 year it has worked there.
Government vows stern action against pipeline bombers
The Sudanese government on Sunday vowed to deal severely with those responsible for blowing up an oil pipeline in Haiya, some 170 km south of Port of Sudan, Sudanese television reported. "While successive steps are being taken by the government to realise the national consensus, some quarters which felt uneasy decided to practise violence and destruction against the gains of the nation and citizens," it said. "The government affirms that those who are causing destruction will be dealt with severely wherever they are." Sunday's blast destroyed some three metres of the pipeline but the authorities concerned reportedly managed to control the oil spillage and extinguished the fire. Energy and Mining Minister Dr Awad Ahmad al-Jaz went to the area to supervise the maintenance. Documents found at the site attributed the incident to the opposition Beja Congress, the television report added. It said the incident would not affect oil exports but that security authorities were pursuing the criminals.
IGAD mediators consulting with government, rebels
Individual consultations between the facilitators of the Sudan peace talks the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD) and the Khartoum government on one side, and the rebel SPLM/A on the other, continued in Nairobi on Monday, SPLM/A spokesman Dr Kwaje told IRIN. "We have not started the face to face talks," he confirmed. Discussions are to continue on the Declaration of Principles (DOP) and the issues of self-determination for southern Sudan and the use of shari'ah law. The talks opened on Sunday.
Rebels, government extend humanitarian ceasefire
Both the rebel SPLM/A and the Sudanese government extended their respective humanitarian ceasefires for three months last week. The SPLM/A announced the extension of a partial ceasefire in Bar el Ghazal, western Upper Nile (Bentiu and Panaru/Pariang areas) and Central Upper Nile (Bor, Fangak, Waat, Akobo and Pibor areas). It said it declared the ceasefire in order to "enhance access to populations in need of humanitarian assistance". "It is not a comprehensive ceasefire which is part and parcel of the overall political solution to the war in the Sudan and which is one of the items contained in the Declaration of Principles (DoP) developed by the IGAD mediation process," a statement from the SPLM/A said. "A comprehensive ceasefire in our view will be the result of progress in the peace talks and not vice-versa," it added. The government, for its part, said it had also extended its to support peace efforts and allow humanitarian organisations to transport aid to people suffering from shortages of food and medicine in southern and eastern Sudan, the Associated Press (AP) reported.
However on Saturday, the SPLA accused the government of bombing the rebel-held town of Yei in violation of the proclaimed ceasefire, AFP reported. "The bombing does not create a good climate for the [Nairobi] talks," SPLA spokesman Samson Kwaje told the news agency on Sunday.
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