Sudan on Wednesday accused its southern neighbour of repeatedly attacking a disputed region it claimed to have captured from rebels last week, amid heightened tensions along the volatile border.
South Sudan’s army, the SPLA, has attacked the region of Jau six times since Tuesday, the foreign ministry in Khartoum said in a statement, adding the region lay within Sudan’s South Kordofan state and that its army had repulsed the assault.
“The foreign ministry condemns this blatant attack on Sudan’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, by a state that does not respect its neighbours and wants to make itself an element of instability in the region,” it added.
SPLA spokesperson Philip Aguer confirmed there has been fighting in Jau since Saturday but insisted the area was south of the disputed border.
“The SPLA has been trying to defend the area and the Sudanese armed forces have been attacking it and bombarding with Antonovs, MiGs, long range ground artilleries and all military powers,” he said.
Neither side were able to give details of casualties from the fighting.
Sudan’s army said on Saturday it had captured camps around Jau belonging to South Kordofan rebels aligned to the SPLA, in what it described as a strategic victory, adding the area was a key supply route for the rebels.
A rebel spokesperson backed Aguer’s statement that Jau was located south of the border and insisted they had had no presence there since the south gained independence in July.
“Before secession, some of our troops had a presence there. But after secession, in accordance with the Comprehensive Peace Agreement, we had to leave the south, and this is what we did,” Gamar Delman said.
“The troops in Jau belong to the state of South Sudan. We are fighting in the Nuba Mountains,” he added.
No sign of abating
The conflict in the Sudanese border state, which first erupted in June between the army and Nuba militia who fought alongside the ex-southern rebels during their 22-year conflict with the north, has shown no sign of abating.
Similar fighting has raged since September in nearby Blue Nile state, another peripheral area where Khartoum has moved to assert its authority in the wake of southern secession.
In addition to the violence in Sudan’s embattled southern states, there has been evidence of cross-border attacks in recent weeks, badly fraying bilateral relations.
Witnesses said the Sudanese army bombed a refugee camp last month in South Sudan’s Unity state, just south of Jau.
Analysts do not expect the former civil war enemies to resume all-out hostilities for now.
But they warn of the two sides continuing to supply rebel groups within each other’s territories and the negative impact this will have on negotiations to resolve the complicated post-secession issues. — AFP