Slain bodies of civilians killed in renewed attacks lie along a road in Bentiu, South Sudan. Mother of Mercy Hospital in the Nuba Mountains of war-torn South Kordofan in Sudan was targeted by Sudanese air force over two days, said Bishop Macram Max Gassis. CNS photo/Emre Rende, Reuters

Catholic hospital damaged in bombing by Sudanese air force, bishop says

  • May 5, 2014

WASHINGTON - A Catholic-run hospital in the Nuba Mountains of war-torn South Kordofan in Sudan was targeted by the Sudanese air force over two days, said a retired bishop.

Bishop Macram Max Gassis, who retired in October as head of the Diocese of El Obied, Sudan, charged that Mother of Mercy Hospital was deliberately targeted by the Sudan government, causing patients and medical staff to seek cover May 1 and 2.

"The bombing is an outrage against innocent civilians who are seeking medical assistance from our hospital," Bishop Gassis said in a statement May 5 from his home in Kenya. "The sick have nothing to do with the conflict that has devastated the Nuba Mountains since June 2011. They are innocent civilians protected by international law from direct targeting by military forces.

"International law demands that civilians are protected during conflict, but the attack today is a direct violation of this fundamental humanitarian principle. It is a violation of the sacredness of all human life, which we must protect at all costs."

The facility is the only functioning hospital in the Nuba Mountains and serves more than 150,000 annually, according to Caritas Internationalis, an umbrella organization of Catholic aid agencies.

More than 200 patients were in the hospital at the time the bombs exploded, according to hospital officials.

Nuba Reports, a website based in South Kordofan, reported that no one was killed in the initial bombing that sent patients fleeing to safety. The bombs shattered windows and weakened the roof of the hospital's medical director, the site said.

A second plane returned May 2, but its bombs landed in nearby mountains, witnesses said.

"They want to drive people out of here. This is the only thing that makes any sense; there's nothing militarily here. There's no military objective to destroying this place," Dr. Tom Catena, the hospital's medical director, said in a video posted by Nuba Reports.

Nearly three years of fighting between the Sudanese government and Sudan People's Liberation Movement-North in South Kordofan and Blue Nile states has displaced more than 1 million people, according to the United Nations. Non-Arab groups have accused the Arab-dominated regime of Sudan President Omar al-Bashir of neglect and discrimination, fueling the conflict.

International rights organizations have charged that the Sudanese military indiscriminately attacks communities in South Kordofan and Blue Nile.

Talks between the government and SPLM-North were suspended May 1 and tentatively set to resume by the end of the month.

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