The bones of scores of villagers litter a “killing field” left in the wake of an unprovoked attack by Sudan’s militant Islamic regime in which as many as 3,000 unarmed civilians died, according to a team of fact-finders.
Dennis Bennett of the relief group Servant’s Heart recently returned from Upper Nile Province where he and his colleagues heard local survivors tell of a massive attack they believe killed between one-third and one-half of the 6,000 people who lived in the villages of Liang, Dengaji, Kawaji and Yawaji.
Human remains in area of purported attack by Sudan forces (Dennis Bennett photo)
A woman from Dengaji named Tangook told Bennett’s team that her two children, approximately ages 4 and 5, were killed in the late April 2002 attack by Arab soldiers. Two days after she fled to a neighboring village, men from Dengaji went back to find the bodies.
“My children’s bodies were being eaten by birds,” she said, according to a transcript of a video interview. “The soldiers burned all our houses and took all our belongings. When the men went back to the village looking for [salvageable] items, they found almost nothing left.”
Bennett said the estimate of up to 3,000 dead was made in part by counting survivors who have returned to the villages and those in refugee camps. But he wants an investigation from an independent monitoring team that was established in an agreement with the Khartoum regime last October.
Scene from rebuilt village of Liang (Dennis Bennett photo)
“It was a completely unarmed region of more than 6,000 unarmed civilians,” Bennett told WND. “No rebel soldier was in the area and none had ever been there.”
Villagers interviewed said many of the people are Christians and some are animists.
‘Jihad is our way’
Backed by Muslim clerics, the National Islamic Front regime in the Arab and Muslim north declared a jihad on the mostly Christian and animist south in 1989. Since 1983, an estimated 2 million people have died from war and related famine. About 5 million have become refugees.
Sudan’s holy war against the south was reaffirmed in October 2001 by First Vice President Ali Osman Taha.
“The jihad is our way, and we will not abandon it and will keep its banner high,” he said to a brigade of mujahedin fighters heading for the war front. “We will never sell out our faith and will never betray the oath to our martyrs.”
Survivors in the Upper Nile villages said the attackers were members of the Sudan regular army from the Boing Garrison, commanded by Brig. Gen. Ibrahim Saleh.
Bennett said his team – which included Mel Middleton, president of Freedom Quest International and Glenn Penner, communications director of Voice of the Martyrs Canada – walked almost 30 miles each way in 115-degree heat to document the incident.
‘Deliberate attacks’ on civilians
The U.S. State Department said yesterday it has forwarded Bennett’s findings to the international Civilian Protection and Monitoring Team, CPMT, assigned to report on violations of the March 2002 agreement between Khartoum and the rebel Sudanese People’s Liberation Movement.
The agreement specifically barred both sides from attacking civilians. Bennett and his colleagues are urging the State Department to include details of the attack in the report to Congress mandated by the Sudan Peace Act, which was signed into law last October.
The Sudan Peace Act requires the U.S. administration to present a detailed report by April 21 of any acts of genocide or war crimes.
Remains found near attacked village (Dennis Bennett photo)
Last Sunday, the CPMT issued a report charging that since Dec. 31, government-backed forces had initiated “deliberate attacks against non-combatant civilians and civilian facilities” in Western Upper Nile province.
State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said Tuesday in response to the report that the U.S. condemns “these unconscionable attacks and abuses against civilians.”
The CPMT said many of the attacks focused on towns along a road under construction between Bentiu and Adok that would provide access to numerous oil facilities in the province.
In a similar campaign in the Western Upper Nile and Kordofan Provinces in 1997, militia and government forces raided villages to clear out the area for an oil pipeline project to Port Sudan. China’s national oil company holds a majority stake in the pipeline.
Many human rights groups charge that Khartoum is using oil revenues to fuel its war effort. Bennett, with 20 years experience in international risk management and banking, said he was the first to probe the link between oil and jihad that is now documented and publicized by the rights groups. His research began in 1996 when he asked: If you’re the government of Sudan and you’re broke, how are you paying for your war?
On his recent fact-finding trip, Bennett said his team came within five miles of the Government of Sudan positions from which the attack was launched. Three Arab nomads spying for the government were caught in a village Bennett visited, which forced his team to leave secretly and walk most of the night to reach safety.
Early morning assault
In the April 2002 attack, heavily-armed government forces reportedly struck in the early morning as the villagers slept, launching a rampage of killing, looting and burning down houses. Residents said the attackers were armed with 60 millimeter mortars, rocket-propelled grenades, 12.7 millimeter heavy machine guns and AK-47 assault rifles.
Mortar craters in area of Upper Nile village (Dennis Bennett photo)
In a videotaped interview, villager Tunya Jok said he witnessed his 4-year -old daughter being shot and killed as she fled from the soldiers.
Later, his 6-year-old son was captured and beheaded by the soldiers. The boy’s body was thrown into a burning hut and his head planted upright, facing away from the dwelling.
Awtio, subchief of the village of Liang, said a young girl named Yata was captured by the soldiers and thrown into a fire.
Others fled into the bush and died there, he said.
Tunya Jok, who says 6-year-old son was beheaded by soldiers (Dennis Bennett photo)
Wol Majief, a woman from Dengaji, said she began to flee when soldiers started shooting, but four of her children were killed.
Teela, Anjota, Jotier and Berta were shot by the troops, she said.
Dengaji village chief Billy Worgo told Bennett’s team, “Your coming here is good.”
“This is the first time anyone from the outside has come to find out about this problem,” he said. “This is very encouraging to us. Your visit makes us very happy.”
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