Forces aligned with Southern Sudan have seized a northern-held town in a contested region where hostilities are threatening a peaceful split of Sudan this weekend, according to video viewed by The Associated Press.
In the video, forces loyal to the southern army, or SPLA, who hail from a minority ethnic group in the northern Sudanese state of South Kordofan celebrated after defeating northern forces in the town of El Hamra, about 25 miles (40 kilometers) from the state capital of Kadugli.
The spirited soldiers and women are from the black African Nuba ethnic group that opposes the rule of Sudan's Arab north. The troops defeated northern troops, who had held El Hamra until Friday.
Several bloodied corpses wearing SPLA uniforms lay in the back of a large military transport truck that the troops indicate in the video was seized from the northern army. An anti-aircraft assault rifle was mounted in the truckbed and soldiers draped in .50-calibers bullets stood around the truck.
Nearby, other Nuba soldiers, wearing southern army uniforms, proudly displayed dozens of cartons of heavy artillery bullets, mortars, anti-aircraft weaponry and large trucks they said were seized from the northern army during a battle said to have lasted for 30 minutes that resulted in the southern-aligned troops seizing El Hamra.
The AP was not able to confirm whether all of the weapons displayed in the footage were seized during the July 1 fighting, but the footage did confirm that the pro-south Nuba fighters are in possession of caches of heavy artillery and weapons.
The video was provided to AP on Monday by Tomo Kriznar, a 56-year-old Nuba Mountains advocate, filmmaker, and writer from Slovenia. Kriznar said the video was shot by a high-ranking SPLA commander in the Nuba Mountains, a stronghold of the southern army and home to fierce southern loyalists throughout Sudan's two-decade civil war, which ended in 2005.
On Saturday Southern Sudan breaks away from the north and forms the world's newest country. But violence in Sudan has been flaring in recent weeks, and the video footage makes clear that the civil war that ended years ago is not yet over in the Nuba Mountains, whose people practice Islam, Christianity and animism.
Last week in Ethiopia, representatives from the north's ruling National Congress Party and of the southern-aligned opposition forces they are fighting signed an agreement aimed at restoring peace in South Kordofan and the neighboring Blue Nile state.
But on Friday, after returning to Sudan from China _ the northern government's key trade partner _ President Omar al-Bashir said the northern army would continue its campaign in South Kordofan.
The northern government has said that it is not targeting civilians, but dozens of civilian casualties have been reported since fighting began early last month. Aid groups are not able to access the area, so no reliable death tolls exist. The United Nations says more than 70,000 people have fled the fighting.
Many of those who have fled are taking shelter in mountainous caves to avoid aerial bombings which Kriznar said happened nearly every day during his three-week visit to the region.
"I saw the Nuba leaving their fields, escaping to their traditional caves," Kriznar said. "They don't come to cultivate, because they are not sure they will harvest, that they will be alive tomorrow."
Kriznar says he has witnessed three separate campaigns by the northern government to "exterminate" the Nuba people: in the late 1970s, in the 1990s, and this year. The northern government killed as many as 200,000 Nuba in the 1990s. Many experts deemed the attacks to be genocide.
Some Sudan experts and Western advocates are using the same words to describe the recent violence. Kriznar says that the SPLA troops in the Nuba Mountains aren't weak but can't fight the north's superior technology.
"They have guns, but they can't fight the jets, the Antonovs, and the now the MIGs. They take seven seconds to cross the sky and people are so scared of them because they hear the sound and have no time to rush to the caves...now nobody is returning from the mountains," he added.