Parachute Bombs Rise as New Threat in Sudan

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While peace talks are set to resume Friday in South Sudan, in neighboring Sudan, the Islamist government has stepped up attacks against civilians in the Nuba Mountains.

A new type of bomb now used by the capital city of Khartoum is proving even more deadly.

The Nuba Mountains region used to be a serene place, one where Muslims and Christians lived side by side in peace, eking out a living from farming.

But for the past 25 years, Sudanese President Omar al Bashir has waged war against the people of the Nubas and South Kordofan state.

Muslims and Christians alike have resisted his efforts to Arabize and Islamize them. They believe he sees them as infidels, and he wants to kill them and seize their oil.

Sudanese Christian, human rights activist Nahmia Ibrahim Shaloka said many Americans mistakenly believe that fighting ended in the Nubas when South Sudan gained independence nearly three years ago.

He said the opposite is true. The war against his people is escalating.

"Every day, there's air bombardment, destroying the schools, even the facilities-health centers, churches, and everything," Shaloka explained.

According to the news service Nuba Reports, Sudan government bombings in the Nuba Mountains increased from 28 in November 2013 to at least 120 just two months later.

Late last month, a barrage of 48 rockets hit a school and near the marketplace in the city of Kauda. While no one was killed, the Nubans were alarmed by Bashir's new, preferred method of attack: parachute bombs.

These weapons are more deadly because they are much quieter and less noticeable when they fall from the sky.

"It's just like [they're] totally focusing to destroy the life of the people and they target even the civilians. They don't focus on anything else. This is the situation," Shaolka said.

Religious freedom advocate Tina Ramirez, with the non-profit group Hardwired, said Sudanese President  Bashir is at the heart of every Sudan conflict -- from Darfur to the Nuba Mountains and the Blue Nile.

"The conflict is not between Muslims and Christians," she explained. "It's between Bashir and his version of Islam. It's extremely oppressive to everybody else in Sudan -- and that includes South Sudan. So, he's constantly pitting groups off of each other and instigating problems even in South Sudan."

The International Criminal Court has issued a warrant against Bashir for war crimes and crimes against humanity. So far, the Sudanese president has avoided arrest.

So, what can the United States do?

"As the church or as non-government organizations, we can come alongside the people of Sudan to ensure they have the training to articulate true human rights and freedom and to have a constitution that really respects that for everyone," Ramirez said.

She added that for Christians and Muslims alike, from Khartoum, south to the Nuba Mountains, "without religious freedom there will be no peace in Sudan."

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