Military forces led by Sudan’s militant Islamist regime burned to death a Christian pastor and his family in a massacre of 59 unarmed villagers, a relief group working in the area reported.

The simultaneous attack on 10 villages in Eastern Upper Nile took place as Secretary of State Colin Powell met with Sudanese Foreign Minister Mustafa Osman Ismail to discuss Sudan’s removal from the U.S. list of state sponsors of terrorism.

Sudan’s cleric-backed 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.

The May 22 attack was completely unprovoked, according to Seattle-based Servant’s Heart, as no members of the rebel Sudan People’s Liberation Army were in the area.

The militia also wounded 15 and abducted 10 children and 6 women. The forces used a combination of rocket-propelled-grenade launchers, .50-caliber heavy machine guns and assault rifles.

Many villagers were burned alive as they hid in their homes from the government-led forces, Servant’s Heart said.

Jacob Gadet Manyiel, pastor of the Presbyterian Church of Sudan, and his wife and four children were burned to death as government soldiers stood outside their house and threatened to shoot anyone trying to escape.

Meanwhile, on the day of the attack, State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said, “We think there is a real prospect to reach a just and lasting conclusion to the [Sudanese] civil war.”

Khartoum’s Ismail said after meeting with Powell his government “would sign a peace agreement with the SPLA as quickly as possible, maybe next month.”

However, the attack last week violates the current cease-fire between Khartoum and the SPLA. It also breaches the agreement facilitated by former Sen. John Danforth, which forbids attacks against civilians and non-combatants.

Government of Sudan 2nd Lt. Mohammed Idris led the attack, Servant’s Heart said.

Dennis Bennett, the group’s executive director, charged that the State Department’s unwillingness to thoroughly investigate an attack last year on villages in North East Upper Nile province led Khartoum forces to believe they could kill and enslave unarmed civilians with impunity.

As WorldNetDaily reported, the bones of scores of villagers littered a “killing field” left in the wake of an unprovoked assault in which as many as 3,000 civilians died.

“It is time for all Americans to contact President Bush directly, demanding that he punish those members of the Sudanese government who are responsible for these atrocities,” Bennett said.

He called on Bush and the State Department to insist on the immediate, safe return of the 10 children and six women kidnapped and brutalized during last week’s attack.

A noted research institute has compiled the names of 10,000 Sudanese abducted into slavery, evidence that challenges denials by Khartoum.

Bennett insisted there should be no further talks with the U.S. until all abductees from the recent attack are returned and those responsible are arrested and tried for crimes against humanity, including Idris and Brig. Gen. Ibrahim Saleh.

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