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Mass Graves Identified in Sudanese State, Satellite Project Says

Aug. 18 (Bloomberg) -- Three suspected mass graves have been identified in Sudan’s Southern Kordofan state, where government forces have clashed with insurgents since June, the Google Inc.-backed Satellite Sentinel Project said.

Satellite images captured in July and August, backed by eyewitness reports, show white bundles that are “consistent with human remains” close to newly disturbed earth in remote locations in and around Kadugli, the state capital, the group said yesterday on its website.

Government forces may be trying to “actively conceal evidence of potential war crimes and crimes against humanity” by what the group said appears to be “concealing the presence of an alleged mass grave underneath a water tower near Kadugli.”

The UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights called in an Aug. 15 report for an investigation into possible crimes against humanity and war crimes, allegedly committed mainly by government forces, during clashes in the state with insurgents from the northern branch of South Sudan’s ruling party.

Sudanese army spokesman Al-Sawarmi Khaled and Rabie Abdel Ati, a senior member of President Umar al-Bashir’s National Congress Party, didn’t answer calls today to their mobile phones seeking comment.

The UN said in the report the Sudanese army and militia loyal to it may have carried out “extrajudicial killings, arbitrary arrests and illegal detention, enforced disappearances, attacks against civilians, including children, looting of civilian homes and destruction of property.”

‘Baseless’ Report

The Sudanese government rejected the UN report as “baseless,” the state-run SUNA news agency reported on Aug. 15, citing Foreign Ministry spokesman Al-Obaid Murawih. Government officials previously denied that their forces violated human rights in the state.

Clashes and airstrikes by the Sudanese army in Southern Kordofan forced more than 73,000 people to flee their homes, according to the UN.

Fighting broke out a month before South Sudan’s July 9 independence from Sudan, the culmination of a 2005 peace agreement that ended the civil war between the north and south.

Southern Kordofan is Sudan’s only oil-producing state, accounting for 115,000 barrels a day, according to Sudan’s minister of state for oil, Ali Ahmed Osman.

To contact the reporters on this story: Maram Mazen in Khartoum at mmazen@bloomberg.net; Salma El Wardany in Khartoum through the Nairobi newsroom at pmrichardson@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Antony Sguazzin at asguazzin@bloomberg.net.

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