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Children Among Dozens Killed in Attack on Sudanese Village


A gun and artillery assault by Sudanese paramilitaries on a village in Sudan’s main farming region killed at least 104 people, including dozens of children, Sudanese pro-democracy activists said.

The exact circumstances of the attack on Wednesday at Wad al-Noura, a village 70 miles south of the capital, Khartoum, were disputed.

But the high death toll, as well as images of a mass burial on Thursday that circulated on social media, and were verified by The New York Times, drew international condemnation and made the assault the latest flashpoint in Sudan’s brutal yearlong war.

“Even by the tragic standards of Sudan’s conflict, the images emerging from Wad Al-Noura are heartbreaking,” Clementine Nkweta-Salami, the top U.N. official in Sudan, said in a statement.

“The world is watching,” the British Foreign Secretary, David Cameron wrote on social media. “Those responsible will be held to account.”

Still, Sudan has seen numerous atrocities yet little accountability since it plunged into a disastrous civil war just over a year ago, when fighting broke out between the national army and a powerful paramilitary group known as the Rapid Support Forces.

And with phone lines down in Jazeera Province, where Wad al-Noura is, Sudanese were relying on videos and accounts from local activists to make sense of the latest mass casualties.

A video shared online and geolocated by The Times shows a convoy of at least five Rapid Support Forces vehicles lining a roadway about half a mile from Wad al-Noura on Wednesday.

Gunmen standing on the back of the stationary vehicles can be seen firing machine guns across open fields toward the village. The video runs for about five minutes, amid constant gunfire.

A person narrating the video says the inhabitants have blocked access to the village to prevent the fighters from reaching it. It does not appear that the fighters were shot at.

However a separate video from inside Wad al-Noura suggested the village had mounted some sort of armed defense. In the video, a resident pleads for help as gunfire erupts outside.

“The village is under siege,” the man says. “Save Wad al-Noura.”

The local resistance committee, part of a national network of pro-democracy groups, called the incident a massacre. On Thursday it posted videos showing at least 50 bodies draped in cloth and laid out for burial at the village.

The videos and photographs were verified by The Times and the Sudan Witness Project at the Center for Information Resilience, a nonprofit organization that monitors conflicts and documents potential war crimes.

At least 104 people were killed, the resistance committee said, blaming the national army for failing to save them. “The people of Wad Al-Noura called on the army to rescue them, but they shamefully did not respond.”

The Rapid Support Forces disputed that account. In a statement, it admitted its forces had opened fire on Wad al-Noura, but said they were attacking military positions around the village, and had lost eight soldiers in the fighting.

The head of UNICEF, Catherine Russell, said in a statement that she was “horrified” by reports that at least 35 children were killed and 20 injured in the violence, and called on the warring parties to abide by international laws.

Sudan’s army chief, Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, visited villagers wounded in the attack on Thursday. Speaking at a hospital in the nearby town of Al Managil, he said the army would deliver a “harsh response” to the R.S.F. for the killings.

The village is in a farming region that was once the breadbasket of Sudan, but is now a vast battleground.

The R.S.F. captured Wad Madani, the regional capital of Jazeera Province, in December as part of a stunning series of victories that put Sudan’s Army at a disadvantage.

In recent months, the military has tried to recapture Jazeera with a major counteroffensive. Wad al-Noura is about 20 miles from the nearest frontline in that fight.

In western Darfur region, the R.S.F. has besieged El Fasher, the last remaining stronghold of Sudan’s army in Darfur, stoking fears that a full-scale war inside the city could bring ethnic massacres or worsen a hunger crisis that aid workers say threatens to become a famine.

The R.S.F. has received arms and other backing from the United Arab Emirates, its main foreign sponsor, according to American and U.N. officials. On Thursday, the United States imposed new sanctions related to the conflict in Sudan on seven companies based in the Emirates.

Abdalrahman Altayeb contributed reporting from Port Sudan, Sudan. Videos were edited by Ainara Tiefenthäler



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