Fighting broke out today between the Sudan People’s Liberation Army- North and the Sudanese government forces in the state of Blue Nile. After launching recent invasions in Abyei and South Kordofan, the attack in Blue Nile is the latest in Bashir’s campaign to violently dominate the people of Sudan.

According to the SPLM-N, the political wing of the SPLA, the Sudanese army and allied militias carried out an attack on SPLA-A positions in Blue Nile’s capital of Damazin early on Friday targeting the residence of Malik Agar, the Governor of Blue Nile and Chairman of the SPLM-N, as well as the position of the commander of special joint units in Damazin.

Blue Nile, like Abyei and South Kordofan, was a focal point during the 22 year civil war between the North and South.  According to the Comprehensive Peace Agreement that ended the war and led to South Sudan’s independence, Abyei (which has been occupied by the Sudanese Army) was to hold a referendum over whether it would join the South and both Blue Nile and South Kordofan were to remain in the North but carry out ill-defined “popular consultations”. Amid continuing attacks in South Kordofan and frustration in Blue Nile, that process has been suspended. The tense atmosphere in Blue Nile has mirrored that of South Kordofan in the weeks before violence broke out and during the past several months, both sides have significantly increased their military presence. In 2010, there were an estimated 17,000 SPLA-N troops and around 20,000 Sudanese Armed Forces troops in Blue Nile, however the current figure likely much higher.

By failing to impose serious consequences on Bashir’s regime for crimes committed in Darfur, Abyei and South Kordofan, the Obama Administration and the international community has essentially given the green light to the Sudanese government that they are free to perpetrate atrocities on civilians with impunity. The United States must lead the international community by taking concrete action to stop Bashir from brutally targeting the Sudanese people.

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