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Nuba Mountains

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Another year has come and gone and with it hundreds of thousands of images have recorded the world's evolving history; moments in individual lives; the weather and it's affects on the planet; acts of humanity and tragedies brought by man and by nature. The following is a compilation - not meant to be comprehensive in any way - of images from the first 4 months of 2012. Parts II and III to follow this week. -- Paula Nelson ( 64 photos total)
Fireworks light up the skyline and Big Ben just after midnight, January 1, 2012 in London, England. Thousands of people lined the banks of the River Thames in central London to ring in the New Year with a spectacular fireworks display. (Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)

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People walk on the OCBC Skyway linking the Supertrees in the nearly completed Gardens By The Bay just next to Singapore’s busy financial district on Monday April 30, 2012 in Singapore. This is part of the city-state’s efforts to bring and nurture greenery within the city and capture the essence of Singapore as a tropical [...]

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In just over a week, the volatile components behind Sudan’s division into two nations — oil, religion, ethnic rivalry, guerrilla militias, disputed borders — have burst into war. TIME photographer Dominic Nahr has been on assignment in South Sudan’s ironically named Unity State, whose northern edge includes disputed boundaries with its enemy Sudan — one of which is marked only by a white cargo container. In the last nine days, South Sudan forces have pushed north into Sudanese territory, taking the disputed town of Heglig, only to pull back under fire and see enemy soldiers press south instead. Nahr filed this dispatch on Sunday.

Unity State is one of the most frustrating places I have worked. Nothing comes easy. You have to struggle, then struggle some more to get things moving. It took me days to find a truck to hire in the state capital Bentiu in order to get to the conflict areas only to have to it taken away by a local official who allegedly wanted it to tow a bus back from the front lines. A couple of days later a dreadlocked rebel soldier from Darfur–which lies far across the border in Sudan–became angry that I and a companion had taken his photo and chased us down in his Mad Max car, jumping out and cocking his gun with such fury I thought it was going to fly right out of his hands. He then sped off with two cameras.

No one seems to know what’s going on and when I try to reach the front lines I mostly get stalled or put-off by soldiers, commanders and officials. In the end I hitched a ride with southern soldiers to Heglig, a disputed town that South Sudan occupied for a few days. They were less concerned with the fighting than they were with filling the pick-up truck with looted beds, mattresses, laptops and printers from the town. On another drive the hood of our truck, which was held on with rope, flipped up and smashed the windscreen as we flew down a rutted dirt road.

In Heglig, days before it was retaken by the northern army, I wandered over to the nearby oil installations hoping to capture photos of the destruction. There were bodies of dead northern soldiers all over the place. As I got closer to the pipeline I saw a corpse lying in a thick slick of oil, glistening in the sun. The soldier’s head was resting on his arms and I couldn’t see any injuries: it looked like he was sleeping. It really hit me, this moment of calm amidst the chaos, and I knew this was the photograph that captured both the causes and the consequences of the fighting over Heglig.

But it hasn’t all been difficulty and horror.

My current desktop picture is a group photo, including TIME Africa bureau chief Alex Perry and some of my other colleagues, over the border in the Nuba Mountains, where rebel forces are being assaulted by Sudan government based in the north’s capital, Khartoum. We are dirty but happy, leaning on the 4×4 that took us around for a week. It’s still smeared with some of the mud that they use to camouflage vehicles against bombing raids by northern Antonovs.

The reason I was so happy is because the Nubans are as inviting as their mountains that spring from the ground giving refuge and protection. The feeling of a struggle shared by Nuban civilians and rebels alike is innocent and pure. With almost no outside support they have learned to rely on themselves.

The struggle is both genuine and urgent and this is part of the reason I will return and will continue working there. People are starving because the fear of aerial bombardment means they have not planted any food in months. They have already missed two harvests and the bombing is still going on.

I can’t say how this will end. The rainy season will be upon us within weeks washing away the mud roads and blocking off all land access, in and out. A 15-minute downpour a few days ago was enough to turn the dirt roads slick leaving snakelike tracks where cars had slid around.

The only thing I am sure about is that this is not over; it hasn’t been for decades.

Dominic Nahr, a TIME contract photographer, is represented by Magnum.

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The best photos of 2011 from around the globe. Warning: All images in this entry are shown in full, not screened out for graphic content. Some images contain dead bodies, graphic content and tragic events. We consider these images an important part of human history.

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Lewere, Sudan – As the July 9 division of Sudan nears, the government in Khartoum is scrambling to crush any rebellious chunks of the territory that will remain its own. Its forces have been relentlessly pounding the Nuba Mountains from Russian-made Antonov bombers for weeks, demanding that tens of thousands of rebel fighters dug in here disarm and drop their insistence on more autonomy for the distinctive Nuba people.
Hundreds of civilians have been killed, including many children. Bombs have been dropped on huts, on farmers in the field, on girls fetching water together, slicing them in half with buckets in their hands.

As the area inches toward becoming fully engulfed in war, the Nuba caves offer a crucial refuge.

Fatima Ramadan, mother of six, froze, her eyes shooting up to the sky.

“Antonov!” she yelled.

Little girls threw down the pebbles they were playing with. Toddlers, sensing danger, started to wail. About two dozen people grabbed the young and dashed up the mountainside into a cave. It was hot and dark inside, and the children’s eyes were wide with fear.

“I don’t like this place,” said Kaka, a 10-year-old girl.

Nobody does. And yet thousands of people live like this.

 Sudan Caves Offer Refuge

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A child takes refuge in the Nuba Mountains in Lewere. Hundreds of civilians have been killed, including many children. Bombs have been dropped on huts, on farmers in the field, on girls fetching water together, slicing them in half with buckets in their hands. (Tyler Hicks/The New York Times) #

 Sudan Caves Offer Refuge

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A girl stands on a ledge in the Nuba Mountains in Kurchi, Sudan. Government forces have been pounding the Nuba Mountains from Russian-made Antonov bombers for weeks, demanding that tens of thousands of rebel fighters dug in there disarm and drop their insistence on more autonomy for the distinctive Nuba people. (Tyler Hicks/The New York Times) #

 Sudan Caves Offer Refuge

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People wash their clothes in the Nuba Mountains in Kurchi, Sudan. (Tyler Hicks/The New York Times) #

 Sudan Caves Offer Refuge

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People wash their clothes in the Nuba Mountains in Kurchi, Sudan, July 3, 2011. Government forces have been pounding the Nuba Mountains from Russian-made Antonov bombers for weeks, demanding that tens of thousands of rebel fighters dug in there disarm and drop their insistence on more autonomy for the distinctive Nuba people. (Tyler Hicks/The New York Times) #

 Sudan Caves Offer Refuge

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Mothers and children rest in the Nuba Mountains in Kurchi, Sudan. (Tyler Hicks/The New York Times) #

 Sudan Caves Offer Refuge

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An elderly woman in a cave in the Nuba Mountains in Kurchi, Sudan, July 3, 2011. (Tyler Hicks/The New York Times) #

 Sudan Caves Offer Refuge

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Children play with pebbles on a hillside in the Nuba Mountains in Lewere, Sudan. Hundreds of civilians have been killed, including many children. Bombs have been dropped on huts, on farmers in the field, on girls fetching water together, slicing them in half with buckets in their hands. (Tyler Hicks/The New York Times) #

 Sudan Caves Offer Refuge

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Women and children run to a cave entrance when a plane is heard overhead in the Nuba Mountains in Lewere, Sudan, July 1, 2011. (Tyler Hicks/The New York Times) #

 Sudan Caves Offer Refuge

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People take refuge in the Nuba Mountains in Lewere. As the area inches toward becoming fully engulfed in war, the Nuba caves offer a crucial refuge. (Tyler Hicks/The New York Times) #

 Sudan Caves Offer Refuge

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A child is comforted in the Nuba Mountains in Lewere, Sudan. As the July 9 division of Sudan nears, the government in Khartoum is scrambling to crush any rebellious chunks of the territory that will remain its own. (Tyler Hicks/The New York Times) #

 Sudan Caves Offer Refuge

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Mothers and children take refuge in the Nuba Mountains in Lewere, Sudan, July 1, 2011. About two dozen people grabbed the young and dashed up the mountainside into a cave. It was hot and dark inside, and the childrenÅ s eyes were wide with fear. (Tyler Hicks/The New York Times) #

 Sudan Caves Offer Refuge

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Children hide in a cave in the Nuba Mountains in Lewere, Sudan, July 1, 2011. Government forces have been pounding the Nuba Mountains from Russian-made Antonov bombers for weeks, demanding that tens of thousands of rebel fighters dug in there disarm and drop their insistence on more autonomy for the distinctive Nuba people. (Tyler Hicks/The New York Times) #

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