Sudan Used Cluster Bombs in Rebel-Held Mountains, Group Says

Sudan’s army dropped cluster bombs on civilian areas of rebel-contested mountains in the country’s south in February and March, Human Rights Watch said.

Researchers from the New York-based group found evidence of six cluster bombs during an April visit to the Nuba mountains in the border state of Southern Kordofan, it said Thursday in a statement. Witnesses reported aerial bombings of two villages that destroyed homes in the two previous months, the group said. Sudan’s army denied it used the weapons.

The evidence “shows the government’s total disregard for its own people and civilian life,” said Daniel Bekele, Africa director at Human Rights Watch. He urged Sudan to join an international treaty prohibiting the use of cluster munitions.

Fighting broke out between government forces and Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North rebels in Southern Kordofan in June 2011 and spread to Blue Nile state. Talks aimed at ending the violence have stalled, and rebels this week fired rockets at a government-held town in an attempt to disrupt Sudan’s presidential and legislative elections.

Sudanese army spokesman al-Sawarmi Khaled said it was “impossible” that the military used cluster bombs against citizens or rebels. “Claims about having evidence are untrue,” he said by phone from the capital, Khartoum.

Human Rights Watch said Sudan has continued to “bomb civilian areas indiscriminately throughout the region.” Monitors reported that aerial bombing killed seven people in a civilian area earlier this month, it said.

Cluster munitions pose a threat to civilians as they scatter bomblets over a wide area and can leave explosives that don’t detonate on impact and become de facto land mines, the rights group said.

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