Sudanese president suspends air raids
Khartoum - President Omar Hassan al-Bashir has suspended most air raids on rebel-held parts of southern Sudan, newspapers reported on Wednesday.
The move follows international criticism of Khartoum's conduct of the 17-year-old war pitting the Islamist government against Christian and animist rebels in the black African south.
"Lieutenant General Omar Hassan al-Bashir, the president of the republic, late yesterday night directed the general command of the armed forces to stop all air bombing operations in the south of the country except in self-defence and in operations areas," the independent al-Sharia al-Siyassi reported.
It said Bashir, commander-in-chief of the armed forces, had given the order to "protect lives and property".
The pro-government Alwan newspaper said Bashir had urged the international community to press the rebel Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA) not to operate from civilian areas.
Sudan's air force has frequently hit civilian targets, including schools and hospitals. More than 1,5 million people are thought to have died in fighting and war-related famine in the impoverished southern Sudan since 1983.
The rebel Sudan People's Liberation Army said in a statement on Wednesday that two government MiG-23 bombers had attacked the southern village of Tali on Sunday, dropping four bombs close to a feeding centre for malnourished children, injuring several.
"The 120 children who were being fed at the time panicked and ran away in disarray," the SPLA said.
"No one was killed but several children are reported to have sustained injuries either as a result of stampede or cuts from bomb fragments."
There was no independent confirmation of the attack.
Last week government aircraft dropped eight bombs close to a Christian-run hospital in the nearby town of Lui, the fifth attack there in six weeks, the SPLA said.
Canada, whose interest in Sudan has been spurred by the operations there of its Talisman Energy Inc TLM.TO, last week urged a UN Commission on Human Rights meeting in Geneva to express international concern about the war in Sudan.
Activists have criticised Talisman, Canada's largest independent oil and gas company, as exacerbating the bloody Sudanese conflict by generating much needed foreign currency for Khartoum. They allege that the government uses that money to fund the war and related human rights abuses in the south.
Khartoum said last week that it was exporting 200 000 barrels per day of crude, piped to the Red Sea from southern oilfields, up from 120 000 bpd when exports began in August.
It has pledged to use the revenue for development and infrastructure projects throughout the country.
By Alfred Taban