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Monday, 9 September, 2002, 15:40 GMT 16:40 UK
Sudan bombs rebel-held town
Army recruits
The government is mobilising its forces for an attack
Government forces in Sudan bombed the rebel-held town of Torit on Monday, the town's bishop has said.

Bishop Paridee Taban told the BBC Focus on Africa programme that some buildings had been destroyed but he was not aware of anyone being killed.

Speaking from Nairobi he said that regular bombing from the air had been taking place "since the time that the town was taken" and his colleagues in the town had warned him not to return yet.

The rebel Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA) took the town a week ago, infuriating the government which pulled out of peace talks.

The government has since been mobilising its forces in order to retake the town but the bishop said he had not seen any signs of a ground offensive yet.

SPLA spokesman Samson Kwaje told the BBC's Network Africa that the SPLA was not worried and that the Sudanese government's preparations for an attack were not of much significance.

Mr Kwaje said that there had been civilian casualties in Monday's raids by government bomber aircraft.

Bishop Taban said that the air raids carried out over the last week had been both high altitude ones by Antonov aircraft and attacks by helicopter gunships.


The Sudanese army has been mobilising forces, including recently recruited militiamen, at the town of Juba ready to attack Torit.

The government wants the SPLA to agree a ceasefire and a withdrawal from Torit before it will resume talks, according to the BBC's Alfred Taban in Khartoum.

Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA) rebels
The SPLA is confident it can hold Torit

Mr Kwaje said that his movement had not come under any pressure internationally to withdraw from Torit.

On Sunday, thousands of militiamen left for Juba, our Khartoum correspondent said.

But he said they were not all volunteers and many had been forcibly conscripted from schools.

He added that the militias are not well-trained and suffer high casualties in the war against the SPLA.

The SPLA has said that the government forces "are going to have it rough" if they advance on Torit.

"We are very confident we'll beat them off, if they come to Torit," Samson Kwaje told the BBC.

He said that when they took Torit, the SPLA defeated two Sudanese divisions.

'First step'

Asked about the peace talks, he said that the SPLA delegation was still in Kenya waiting for them to resume.

Alfred Taban reported that the Sudanese Government is talking to the United States and the regional security body Igad (the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development) about resuming the talks but is still demanding that it get Torit back and that the SPLA should implement a ceasefire during the talks.

When the Sudanese withdrew from the talks a week ago, they said they would return when Torit was back in their hands.

On Sunday, the Sudanese Defence Minister, Bakri Hassan Salih, said:

"The army is capable of retaking Torit and the capture of this town will be the first step towards retaking all the regions controlled by the SPLA."

Samson Kwaje of the SPLA on Network Africa
"Should they move out of Juba to Torit, then we'll see how things are."
Bishop Taban on Focus on Africa
"We heard there have been bombardments this morning in Torit."

Key stories

See also:

05 Sep 02 | Africa
03 Sep 02 | Africa
02 Sep 02 | Africa
30 Jul 02 | Africa
30 Jul 02 | Africa
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