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Sudan Christians Fear New Attacks As Bombings Continue

21 January 2007

By BosNewsLife News Center

KHARTOUM, SUDAN (BosNewsLife)–

Government aircraft reportedly bombed wide areas of northern Darfur , just days after Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir vowed to adhere to the cease-fire.

The latest violence added to concerns among Sudan ‘s minority Christians, who have also been attacked by Sudanese security forces, churches and missionaries said.

Members of the All Saints Episcopal Cathedral Church in the capital Khartoum were still recovering from a massive tear gas attack during New Year’s Eve service, local Christians said.

“Many of the worshippers were injured and six of them were hospitalized,” said a missionary of the Salem Voice Ministries which works in the area on condition of anonymity, in comments monitored by BosNewsLife. Sudanese police reportedly denied they attacked the up to 800 Christians, including Abel Alair, the former vice-president of Sudan , during the New Year’s Eve meeting.

FIRING TEAR GAS

Canon Sylvester Thomas of All Saints Cathedral told reporters that officers firing tear gas into the church claimed they were trying to apprehend a man involved in a stabbing. Officials have not yet established who was responsible for the attack and the estimated $7,000 in damages.

Sudanese Vice President Salva Kiir, a southern Christian, publicly called for the church attackers to be punished yesterday amid fears the attack could spark more wider violence in this volatile

nation.

Kiir’s comments came in a nationally televised speech when he and northern President Omar Al-Bashir met to commemorate the second anniversary of a peace deal that ended the nation’s 21-year civil war between northern Islamists and southern Christian, Muslim and animist factions.

However fighting has continued in Darfur, a region of far western Sudan . More than 200,000 people have been killed and 2,5 million made refugee in Darfur since 2003 when rebels stemming from ethnic African tribes took arms against the Arab-dominated government, charging it of neglect.

GOVERNMENT’S INDISCRIMINATE BOMBINGS

The government in Khartoum is accused of responding with indiscriminate bombings of suspected rebel zones, and of having armed the janjaweed militias of Arab nomads who are blamed for the worst atrocities in the conflict.

Violence has only worsened since the peace agreement signed last May, and Khartoum opposes a UN Security Council resolution for some 22,000 UN peacekeepers to replace the overwhelmed African force in the region.

A rebel field commander, Abdallah Banda, said the latest bombing began Friday, January 19,

across a large stretch of North Darfur near the communities of Hashaba and Ein Sirro and were continuing Sunday.

“We’ve been hearing the (aircraft) circling all morning, and explosions are going off in the distance,” Banda from the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) told The Associated Press (AP) by satellite telephone from North Darfur .

JEM is among the several rebel groups who refuse a peace agreement signed last May by the government and one movement leader, observers said. Government officials were not immediately available for comment but have previously denied breaching any truce, saying recent military action was “purely defensive” and only targeted rebel groups who refuse a cease-fire.