Kadugli — Five people have been killed and 23 injured in a mortar attack on Kadugli, the capital of South Kordofan on Monday October 8, carried out by the Sudanese Revolutionary Front (SRF).
The reports on the number of victims are conflicting; eye-witnesses said the shelling resulted in more than 40 fatal victims, while the Government of Sudan confirmed the death of five people and 23 wounded.
The city of Kadugli was preparing for the launch of a peace conference in South Kordofan (Kadugli Peace Forum) on Monday. Leading political figures from the ruling National Congress Party and other political parties of the national coalition were to attend the conference.
A number of military centers and government institutions were damaged by the mortar attack, including the Popular Defense headquarters, the military garrison, a radio building, a school, a branch office of Bank of Sudan and the UNICEF compound, witnesses told Radio Dabanga.
The witnesses added that the shelling caused widespread panic and terror among residents and caused them to flee in different directions. They estimated that around 12 mortars were fired at the area from surrounding hills and lasted for two hours.
SPLM-N claims responsibility
SPLM-N military spokesman, Arnu Ngutolo Lodi, admitted their responsibility for the attack, but said he could not comment on civilian casualties. Lodi said to Radio Dabanga that the bombings were a retaliation for recent government attacks with Iranian made rockets (Shahab) on their positions and not an attempt to derail the conference.
'We do not target civilians with our actions, our objective is to protect the civilians', he added to Radio Dabanga.
'We have to fight back and of course to carry out our objective of toppling the government,' he told Reuters.
Attempt to target political conference
Col. Al-Sawarmi Khalid, Sudan's army spokesman, stated that the rebels fired eight shells from about six kilometers outside of Kadugli. The spokesman confirmed the death of five people, including one woman, and 23 injured.
Al-Sawarmi added he believes the attack was an attempt to obstruct the conference of political leaders scheduled to start on Monday (Kadugli Peace Forum). He noted that a number of eight shells were fired, of which only five exploded.
UN humanitarian staff relocated
The UN humanitarian coordinator in Sudan, Mr. Ali Al-Za'tari, issued a statement condemning today's 'indiscriminate mortar shelling'. He added that UN humanitarian staff in the area had been relocated to a nearby UN peacekeeping base "as a precautionary measure".
A UNICEF officer said the shelling began at 11:40 am local time and lasted just over half an hour. He said one or two shells landed inside the UNICEF compound but did not explode.
"To our knowledge there were five mortar shells that landed in and around the town", Damian Rance of the UN's Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), told AFP.
Rance could not confirm the total number of evacuated staff, but a World Food Programme (WFP) official said that 15 Sudanese staff, eight of their family members, and one international employee were taken to the nearby UN peacekeeping base.
According to the WFP official, all staff members are safe.