In Sudan, the "voice of the Antonov" sows terror

Thu Oct 13, 2011 6:21pm GMT

By Hereward Holland

NEAR KURMUK, Sudan (Reuters) - A convoy of white Toyota pick-up trucks and 4x4s, smeared with mud for camouflage, lurches off the road and hastily parks under the shade of some trees to the drone of a plane overhead.

Sudan Peoples' Liberation Army-North (SPLA-N) rebels, their vehicles bristling with rocket-propelled grenade launchers and Kalashnikov automatic weapons, leap off.

To cries of "Antonov," they cover the windscreens with blankets, crouch in the swaying chest-high grass and look up.

Seconds later, a white plane flies overhead, accompanied by the low growl of its engines. It circles for 10 minutes before dropping three or four bombs a mile (one-and-a-half km) away.

The SPLA-N rebels fought alongside southern Sudanese in a 22-year civil war which ended in a 2005 peace deal leading to the South's secession last July.

But the territory they fought for in South Kordofan and Blue Nile is just north of the new border, and so their battle with Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir, in power in Khartoum since 1989, has resumed.

The attacks aim to force civilians to flee their villages, severing local support for the guerilla fighters, rebels say, accusations the government denies.

Rights groups and analysts say the use of "indiscriminate bombing" by Soviet-made Antonovs would mirror tactics used by Khartoum in the restive regions of South Kordofan and Darfur.   Continued...

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