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Violence Spikes in Sudan on Eve of National Split

July 6, 2011 at 12:00 AM EDT

JEFFREY BROWN: And now to Africa.

On the eve of South Sudan becoming an independent nation, there’s growing violence along what will be its new border with the North.

Lindsey Hilsum of Independent Television News traveled to the Nuba Mountains, where some of the worst fighting is occurring.

A warning to viewers: This report contains some disturbing images.

LINDSEY HILSUM: Their grief is raw and new. They’re mourning Maria Ibrahim and her unborn baby, dead just a few hours, killed by a Sudan government bomb dropped on the town of Kauda in the Nuba Mountains. Every day brings more death and grief.

Maria died on June the 22nd. Her body lay under a tree. Since then, many more have been killed. We drove up to the border area to find those who fled to South Sudan, a new country which will get its independence from the North on Saturday. In the village of Panyang, we found a group of men who had escaped the town of Kadugli, terrified of Sudanese government soldiers.

OMER ISMAIL, Sudan (through translator): These people are creating war. They’re entering our houses, killing and shooting us. Really, very many have died. That’s why I’m here. Many are hiding in the bush. No one has remained in town.

LINDSEY HILSUM: They have come to a place which has scarcely enough to sustain its own people. South Sudan has endured decades of war with the North. The fear is that renewed conflict in the Nuba Mountains will spill over the border.

Some of the refugees have walked for days from the heart of the Nuba Mountains, but others have come from just two hours up the road, a place called Jaw. It’s actually on this side of the border, in South Sudan, but the Northern government is bombing it nonetheless. That doesn’t augur well for this new nation and relations with its northern neighbor.

A group of evangelical Christians are letting some refugees stay in their compound in Panyang. Those who’ve come here are frightened and destitute.

JUMA HASSAN, Sudan (through translator): First, the Antonov just flew overhead, and then it returned and bombed us. Then everyone ran to hide. I could see the plane with my own eyes. After the bombing, I went to see if people were still in their houses, but they had all fled, so I fled, too. Three of the dead were children. There was an older person, one of my age, and another around 11 or 12. One was cut in half, and his guts were spilling out.

LINDSEY HILSUM: Some have injuries. They told me most women and children are hiding in the bush and in caves, surviving off berries and leaves. In the border area, other tribes have also been caught up in the conflict.

MARY NYANTOL, Sudan (through translator): After eight days in the bush, we came across someone’s home. He was a Dinka, like us, and he gave us these clothes because we have no clothes or shoes.

LINDSEY HILSUM: Nuba soldiers are fighting back. After South Sudan’s independence, they were meant to join the Northern army, but they have rebelled. They’re seizing government weapons and ammunition in battle, and say they want to rule themselves. The Sudanese government says they must be crushed.