Clashes between the armies of northern and Southern Sudan widened in the north’s only oil- producing state, the United Nations said, as President Umar al- Bashir’s ruling party said it gave its troops a “free hand.”
Fighting resumed today for a fifth day in the border state of Southern Kordofan after artillery fire was used in the clashes that continued until late yesterday, UN spokesman Kouider Zerrouk said today by phone from Khartoum, Sudan’s capital.
The clashes, which started in Kadugli, the state capital, spread to the towns of Kauda and Talodi, Zerrouk said. The UN peacekeeping mission in Sudan, known as UNMIS, sent a company of Bangladeshi troops to Kadugli to help protect about 7,000 civilians sheltering near the UN compound, he said.
“We urge the parties to give access to UNMIS and the humanitarian agencies to undertake the necessary assessment and provide vital assistance,” Zerrouk said.
Fighting on the border between northern Sudan and oil-rich Southern Sudan, which is due to become independent on July 9, has raised concern about a resumption of the two-decade civil war that ended with a 2005 peace agreement.
The state-run SUNA news agency reported yesterday that the Sudanese army is deploying throughout the state after it gained control of Kadugli. Troops loyal to Southern Sudan’s army in the state were rebelling against the government in Khartoum with the support of “outside forces,” SUNA cited top presidential aide Nafie Ali Nafie as saying.
Under the peace agreement, the northern and southern armies were due to jointly patrol Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile states on the northern side of the border and the disputed region of Abyei. All three areas were key battlegrounds during the civil war.
Zerrouk said “we believe there were casualties” in the latest fighting. The figures are still not known, he said.
Clashes on June 5 killed one Sudanese army soldier and injured seven others, according to Sudanese army spokesman Al- Sawarmi Khaled. The bodies of four policemen and two civilians were brought to the Kadugli police hospital after fighting on June 7, Zerrouk said.
Al-Bashir’s army said last week that southern troops in Southern Kordofan would be “legitimate targets” if they didn’t leave the area by June 1.
As many as 60,000 fighters from the northern border states of Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile, who fought for the south in the civil war, are still part of Southern Sudan’s army, according to Fouad Hikmat, the special adviser on Sudan for the Brussels-based International Crisis Group.
The clashes may have broken out when northern forces tried to disarm members of the Nuba ethnic group in Southern Kordofan who fought on the side of Southern Sudan in the civil war, Southern Sudanese army spokesman Philip Aguer said June 7.
Southern Kordofan borders the oil-rich states of Unity and Upper Nile in Southern Sudan, which will assume control of about 75 percent of Sudan’s daily oil production of 490,000 barrels of oil at independence. The state currently pumps about 115,000 barrels of oil per day, according to Sudan’s minister of state for oil, Ali Ahmed Osman.
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