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Hospital Bombing Rattles Sudan Relief Workers

  • Pamela Dockins

Relief workers and human rights advocates are criticizing Sudan's military for allegedly targeting the only functioning hospital in the war-torn Nuba Mountains region. Witnesses say government war planes carried out a two-day bombing campaign at the site this month, in an apparent bid to drive international relief workers away.

Before explosions rocked Mother of Mercy hospital, Catholic bishop Macram Max Gassis said there were drones. "Before the bombing, these drones came three times, rather low. They encircled the area," he explained. "Then, after two days, the bombing started."

Hospital workers said the bombings, which caused injuries but no deaths, left staff members and patients feeling "terrorized."

"For two days, because of the bombing, they ran to their homes. Some of them are displaced. Others are on the top of the mountain," said one of the nurses,
Ratiba Ibrahim.

Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir's government has not publicly responded to allegations that it is responsible for the bombings, but local reporters say in the government's view, the Catholic hospital has been functioning illegally.

The government has restricted the access of international relief groups to the region and accused some of them of supporting the Sudan People's Liberation Movement-North, a rebel group fighting against Khartoum.

"So, they want to destroy us so they can drive us away. This is the only thing that makes any sense. There is nothing militarily here. There is no military objective to destroying this place," said Dr. Tom Catena, hospital medical director.

Akshaya Kumar is a Sudan policy analyst with the Enough Project, a group that monitors human rights developments in Central Africa, including Sudan.

“I think we can be 100 percent certain that this facility was targeted by the government. And, that’s because of the simple fact of the weapons that were used. In this conflict, only one side has access to aerial bombardment capabilities and that side is the Sudanese government,” stated Kumar.

Kumar said the international community needs to make it much clearer that Sudan has crossed a red line. “Just as we are hearing a discussion about the legality of crossing international borders to provide life-saving humanitarian assistance into Syria, many think that the same is needed for Sudan, especially because of the combination of the government’s refusal to allow international aid and assistance organizations into these areas, plus its willingness to specifically attack, target and destroy those who are, nonetheless, trying to provide those services,” Kumar said.

Workers say those services include providing treatment to the 150,000 people who rely on Mother of Mercy each year.

They fear that after the bombing, some patients may be too afraid to return.
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