Sudanese Rebels Say They Killed 21 Troops in Blue Nile

Rebels in Sudan said they killed 21 government soldiers during an ambush of two army convoys in the border state of Blue Nile.

The attacks on March 31 occurred near the Bau locality and town of But, the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North said today in an e-mailed statement. Rebels in the state of Southern Kordofan and the western region of Darfur have also clashed with government troops, it said. Sudanese army spokesman Al-Sawarmi Khaled didn’t answer calls seeking comment.

Fighting between Sudanese government forces and the rebels has intensified in the states of Blue Nile and Southern Kordofan since South Sudan seceded in July, assuming control of three-quarters of the former unified nation’s oil production of 490,000 barrels a day.

Border clashes last week between the armies of Sudan and South Sudan prompted expressions of alarm from the United Nations Security Council, the U.S. and the African Union.

About 140,000 refugees have fled Blue Nile and Southern Kordofan to escape the violence, the U.S. State Department said today.

Most have migrated to neighboring South Sudan, as well as to Ethiopia, Catherine Wiesner, deputy assistant secretary of state for population, refugees and migration, said on a conference call with reporters.

“With these numbers, obviously relief agencies are in a race against time,” said Wiesner, who visited South Sudan last week.

An estimated 4.7 million people face food shortages in South Sudan this year, she said.

Refugees are arriving exhausted to camps in the Upper Nile region, which is scarcely populated and will be inaccessible in the rainy season that begins in about a month, Wiesner said.

The U.S. has provided about $6.8 million in aid to South Sudan, with an additional $80.4 million given to the United Nations’ World Food Programme, Wiesner said.

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