Sudan says repulsed rebel attack
Khartoum/VBentiu – Sudan said on Sunday it had repulsed a “major” rebel attack on a strategic town in its South Kordofan state, the latest outbreak of violence in its volatile border area with South Sudan.
Rebels had launched an attack on Talodi, a border town the rebels have repeatedly tried to seize, Sudanese army spokesperson Al-Sawarmi Khalid said.
“Dozens of the rebels were killed. The army is expelling the remaining rebel forces,” he added.
There was no immediate comment from the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N), a rebel group who have been fighting the Sudanese army in the South Kordofan and Blue Nile states since last year.
Both states border South Sudan, whose own army has repeatedly clashed with Sudanese forces in the past few weeks, raising the prospect of a full-blown war between the two neighbours.
Khartoum accuses the South of backing the border state rebels, an allegation Juba denies.
Separately, Philip Aguer, a spokesperson for South Sudan’s army, or SPLA, said his forces had completed a withdrawal from the disputed Heglig oil field as announced on Friday.
“The SPLA moved out of Heglig,” he said, adding that no new fighting had been reported on Sunday.
South Sudan seized the oil field last week, drawing condemnation from the UN Security Council which demanded an immediate withdrawal.
On Sunday, South Sudanese officials showed reporters an oil field in Unity state which they said had been bombed by the Sudanese air force last week.
A Reuters reporter saw three bomb craters on an oil field run by the Greater Nile Petroleum Operating Co (GNPOC) but no visible damage to facilities.
Tensions have been rising since South Sudan split from Sudan and became an independent country in July, taking with it most of the country’s known oil reserves.
The countries are still at loggerheads over the demarcation of their shared border and other disputes have halted nearly all the oil production that underpins both economies.
South Sudan won its independence in a referendum that was promised in a 2005 peace accord that ended decades of civil war between Khartoum and the south. Religion, ethnicity and oil fuelled that conflict, which killed about 2 million people.
Recent tensions between Sudan and South Sudan have been fuelled by a dispute over how much the landlocked South should pay to export oil via pipelines and other infrastructure in Sudan. Juba shut down its roughly 350 000 barrel-a-day output in January, accusing Sudan of seizing some of its crude.
Oil accounted for about 98% of the South’s state revenues.
Limited access to the remote border conflict areas makes it difficult to verify the often contradictory statements from both sides.