JOHANNESBURG — Human rights advocates are issuing new warnings of genocide in Sudan, where Arab armies are accused of killing black African civilians in what an Episcopal bishop described as a "war of domination and eradication."
"Once again, we are facing the nightmare of genocide of our people in a final attempt to erase our culture and society from the face of the earth," the Right Rev. Andudu Adam Elnail, the bishop of Kadugli in southern Sudan, said in an open letter published by the Anglican Communion News Service.
The United Nations estimates that at least 73,000 civilians have fled fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan state since June 5, when the government in Khartoum unleashed ground troops backed by warplanes against a rebel force in the foothills of the Nuba Mountains.
Sudan is ruled by Lt. Gen. Omar Bashir, who is under indictment from the International Criminal Court in The Hague for genocide and war crimes committed in the Darfur region of Sudan from 2003 to 2009. The assault on Darfur, where government troops and Arab militias killed unarmed blacks, left about 300,000 dead and 3 million homeless.
The Satellite Sentinel Project, an independent group that monitors Sudan through satellite analysis, discovered what it described on July 4 as "an apparent" Sudanese army convoy of 80 vehicles, including towed artillery, traveling through Kadugli, the capital of South Kordofan. It earlier reported evidence of aerial and artillery bombardment in the Nuba Mountains by the Sudanese military.
Samuel Totten, a genocide scholar from the University of Arkansas, said he is "getting reports by the hour" from sources in South Kordofan who say that government troops are targeting civilians.
"There have been aerial bombing raids and the use of heavy artillery against unarmed civilians. Homes are being burned, sometimes with people inside," said Mr. Totten, who visited the region in January to research a book.
"The situation needs attention now, not in some inquiry next year when leaders will wring their hands and claim they didn't know the extent of what was happening."
Jehanne Henry, senior researcher on Sudan at Human Rights Watch in Washington, said there were signs that Khartoum forces had "arrested, detained, tortured and killed scores of people."
"The scale of these abuses is not known because the government has effectively closed off the area to external observers and aid workers," Ms. Henry said.
Gregory Stanton, president of Genocide Watch, called on the United States to pressure Gen. Bashir to stop the assault on the Nuba people, who inhabit the region.
"The world is good at lamenting genocide and crimes against humanity after they have taken place, and we see perpetrators brought to The Hague," Mr. Stanton said.
"But a thousand trials after the event won't save one human life. We need action now on the Nuba Mountains with a strong statement from the U.S. Congress, backed up by the secretary of state and even President Obama."
In his open letter June 21, Bishop Elnail compared the assault in South Kordofan to the attack on Darfur.
"It is not a war between armies that is being fought in our land, but the utter destruction of our way of life and our history, as demonstrated by the genocide of our neighbors and relatives in Darfur," he said.
"This is a war of domination and eradication. At its core, it is a war of terror by the government of Sudan against its own people."
In Pretoria, South African Foreign Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane said she was "deeply concerned for the prevailing situation" in South Kordofan.
Mrs. Nkoana-Mashabane told journalists that parties from the north and south have agreed to work with Ethiopia, which will send 4,000 troops to de-escalate tensions on the border.
When Sudan achieved independence in 1956 from joint rule by Britain and Egypt, the largely Christian and black African south was placed under the rule of Muslim Arabs in the capital, Khartoum.
After decades of civil war, the south held a referendum in January with 98.83 percent voting for a separate state. The new Republic of South Sudan became Africa's newest nation on July 9.
Khartoum insists it is hunting down rebels who have refused to accept the peace deal.