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`SILENT,' ONGOING SUDAN WAR GETS BRIEF BURSTS OF ATTENTION

International aid is pouring into Somalia after pictures of war and famine there captured world attention.

A similar war has been ravaging southern Sudan for nine years, forgotten but for brief bursts of international attention. The fighting and war-induced famine there have claimed hundreds of thousands of lives."My own perspective is that the world has not forgotten. They never knew about this silent war. The world is interested about Sarajevo and Mogadishu, but Sudan is not on the agenda," said Rev. Roger Schrock of the New Sudan Council of Churches, based in Nairobi, Kenya.

Sudan's estimated 28 million people are among the world's poorest. U.N. relief began pouring into the country in 1991 when hunger threatened more than one-third of the population.

At the root of the famine is a civil war that has intensified under the 3-year-old Islamic military government of Lt. Gen. Omar Hassan el-Bashir.

Persecution by the Arab Muslim government of the Christian and animist African south has redoubled under his watch, fanning the flames of the 9-year-old southern rebellion.

The government seems intent on keeping out any eyewitnesses who might report on the atrocities. Access to trouble spots for relief organizations and reporters has been curtailed.

A government offensive since last February against the rebel Sudan People's Liberation Army has forced hundreds of thousands of people out of their homes. They join more than half of the south's six million people who already have fled the fighting and the food shortages.

They arrive in northern states exhausted and destitute, suffering acute malnutrition and sickness.

Relief workers in Khartoum, who spoke on condition they not be named, said thousands are dying already, but the tragedy was being ignored because el-Bashir had succeeded in keeping it off the world's television screens.