Ground assaults and large-scale aerial attacks have erupted in South Kordofan as the fighting season draws to a close.
Sudanese Forces have launched hundreds of bombs and artillery shells into Um Dorein County in the last week alone. According to SPLM-N officials more than 450 artillery shells and 365 aerial bombs have been dropped.
While these numbers cannot be verified, Nuba Reports journalists visited the area and traveled through villages completely emptied of their residents, including Um Serdiba, El Nugura, Tabalo, Alabu, and Tangal. The battleground is home to nearly 80,000 residents but nearly all have been displaced.
According to the traditional chief of Tangal, Philip Kory, nearly 3,000 people fled after two days of shelling in which more than 100 rockets fell in the area. One Resident, Ustaz Peter, said his family lost almost everything. “The planes destroyed my father’s house, an Antenov destroyed my neighbor – Abu-Bakr’s – house and on that day we lost around $2500,” or an average one year salary in the Nuba Mountains.
Civilians across the county are now hiding in caves and dry riverbeds, hoping to survive the hail of explosives falling on and near their homes. Aisha and her family have been hiding in the caves since the shelling began. But even there they are not safe. Her mother-in-law was hit by a piece of shrapnel when one bomb fell nearby.
“We did not feel anything,” explains Aisha, “we just saw blood spraying from her in all directions and when we went to her we saw that she was hit by shrapnel on her back.” She adds, “we did not run, because we do not know where to go or what to do.”
The bombing coincides with a ground attack led by the Rapid Support Forces on SPLA-N positions in Al Latmor in Um Dorain County. The militia – which has led most of the government offensives in South Kordofan and Darfur in 2014 – took the town on June 7th after a fierce, two-day battle.
On the morning of the 9th RSF forces attacked the near-by village of Abu Hashim. At the same time SPLA-N forces attacked the government soldiers left in Al Latmor.
The RSF returned to Al Latmor to help defend the newly captured town but the government troops mistook them for the rebels and attacked the paramilitary force. It is reported that hundreds were killed and several vehicles destroyed by the friendly fire between the two government forces.
Despite the confusion, the SPLA-N forces were unable to retake Al Latmor and pulled back. Sudanese authorities said at least 110 SPLA-N soldiers were killed in the battle. Nuba Reports is unable to verify casualty figures on either side.
Meanwhile, Sudanese Forces dropped more than 300 bombs between June 3 and June 10, hitting both civilian and military areas.
Government forces are trying to push towards Um Serdiba, 10 kilometers east of Al Latmor. Um Serdiba lies along a main road to rebel stronghold Kauda. Last month, SAF troops took Abri, another gateway to Kauda, which lies to the north.
The situation on the ground is changing rapidly, and with the SPLA-N continuing to lose ground many civilians are being driven from their homes. Fighting has continued throughout the past few days, and bombings can be heard from as far east as Kauda. With heavier rains falling around the state, both sides are preparing for the final battles of the fighting season.