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Six people were killed and several others injured when a government bomber hit the southern Sudanese town of Raga on Sunday.

Speaking on the (satellite) telephone from Tonj (about 1 000 km south of Khartoum) Wednesday morning, Bishop Caesar Mazzalori of the Catholic Diocese of Rumbek, said the six included a mother and her baby whom she was holding at the time of the incident. The mother also lost her elder son in the some tragedy.

The Bishop who made a quick visit to Raga Tuesday said: This is really diabolical considering that so far the government has continued to deny humanitarian agencies access to Raga.

He said that the Sunday air strike took place in the afternoon and involved between seven and nine bombs, which were dropped along a straight line on strictly civilian section of the town.

Earlier, the bomber aircraft had hovered over the town without dropping any bombs. It is suspected to have been trying to identify its intended target.

The government, he explained, has sustained the aerial attacks on civilians at the town that the SPLA captured on June 2, 2001, while conveniently avoiding military positions.

Bishop Mazzolari said Khartoum s decision to deny humanitarian agencies access to Raga amounted to using food as a weapon in the civil strife that is now in its 19th year.

So far, we (Catholic Church), are the only ones who have managed to bring assistance to Raga.

I appeal to the NGOs to continue pressing to be allowed access to Raga to provide humanitarian services to the civilian populations, the Italian Bishop said.

People here are in dire need of medical services, food, water and shelter and their situation can only be saved by external intervention, said the Comboni clergy.

He pointed out that many people who had fled northwards during the June 2 take over were gradually returning home to embark on cultivation. However, the Bishop added, the sustained bombardment has continued to cause great fear and despondency among the civilians who are determined to return home and continue with their normal lives.

On the morning of June 3, a Russian made Antonov bomber hit Raga s Church-run Comboni School. A day later, another air strike narrowly missed the only bridge in the town.

The town was again hit June 6 and 7. The latter incident took place at night and claimed at least four lives.

Since its capture, none of the humanitarian agencies that serve southern Sudan from Lokichoggio in nortwestern Kenya, has obtained clearance to go to Raga.

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For inquiries, contact

Charles Omondi

Editor, Sudan catholic Information Office (SCIO)

SCIO at maf.or.ke

Tel 254-2-577616

Fax 254-2-577327