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Besieged in Sudan’s Nuba Mountains

New York Times op-ed columnist Nicholas D. Kristof, on his latest reporting mission to Sudan this week, presents a stark reminder of an overlooked conflict where thousands of lives have already been lost and hundreds of thousands more remain at risk. The border region between Sudan and South Sudan is today in a virtual state of war with nearly half a million civilians already displaced by the fighting while another 500,000 remain pinned down by the violence and could face widespread malnutrition and starvation if Khartoum's blockade of assistance to the region is not lifted in the coming weeks. The root causes of the fighting reflect a complex mix of politics, tribalism, economics, and racism, along with the painful reminders of decades worth of animosity between former compatriots. While it is likely true that both sides bear some degree of responsibility for the political conflict that has plagued this border region since just prior to the South's independence last July—and the violence associated with it—the tactics of the Bashir regime appear to go beyond the pale. The United Nations has alleged that war crimes and crimes against humanity are being committed against non-combatant civilians across Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile states. Unfortunately, the lack of a UN or other international presence in these areas has prevented the international community from verifying the veracity of these claims. But Kristof's images do appear to show the kind of wanton and indiscriminate bombing of civilian populations being alleged and that has long characterized Khartoum's attempts to both inflict harm and terrorize its population.