Sudan, rebels say fighting in southern oil state

Posted: October 31, 2011 by PaanLuel Wël Media Ltd. in Junub Sudan

* Both sides claim gains in Monday’s fighting

* Sudan says South Sudan has backed rebels, south denies

* Volatile border region home to thousands who fought with south

(Adds South Sudan’s says Khartoum is backing Unity state rebels, Khartoum’s response)

KHARTOUM/JUBA, Oct 31 (Reuters) – Sudanese rebels and government forces clashed in an oil-producing border state on Monday, Sudan’s government and the insurgent group said, a sign of escalating fighting that has raised tensions with the newly-independent south.

Fighting broke out between Sudan’s army and rebels in the South Kordofan state in June, just weeks before the south split off into a separate country. Both sides have blamed the other for starting the clashes.

Both Sudan’s army and the rebels claimed gains over the other during Monday’s fighting in the town of Taludi.

Ahmed Haroun, South Kordofan’s governor, said Sudan’s military repulsed the attack, and accused South Sudan of backing the rebels.

“Hundreds of soldiers from the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (in South Kordofan) were killed during an attack on the city of Taludi this morning,” he told reporters at a news conference by telephone.

A spokesman for the SPLA in South Kordofan, Qamar Dalman, said the fighting was not over and disputed the government’s figures, saying just five SPLA fighters had been killed.

He claimed rebels controlled up to half of Taludi and had killed 273 government soldiers.

Neither of the reports could be independently verified.

Many of the rebels fought against Khartoum as part of the south’s Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) during a decades-long civil war, but were left in the north when South Sudan became independent in July.

South Kordofan and Blue Nile — both states on Sudan’s side of the border — and the disputed Abyei area saw heavy fighting during the civil war, and fresh clashes have broken out in all three this year.

Sudan has accused groups in those territories of trying to spread chaos along the border, while rights groups have accused Khartoum of trying to stamp out remaining opposition on its side of the border.


Fighting along the border has exacerbated tensions between Khartoum and its former civil war foes in South Sudan, who are still negotiating over how to manage the formerly integrated oil industry and other sensitive issues.

Each side has accused the other of backing rebels in its territory.

A spokesman for Sudan’s army repeated claims that the South Kordofan rebels received training in South Sudan, an accusation South Sudan has previously denied.

On the other side, South Sudan’s army spokesman Philip Aguer said he had evidence linking authorities in Khartoum to the rebel South Sudan Liberation Army (SSLA), which attacked the oil-producing Unity state’s Mayom town on Saturday.

Sudan’s information ministry official Rabie Abdelaty dismissed the charges. “I don’t think this accusation has any degree of correctness,” he said.

The rebel assault in Unity state killed 11 civilians and 13 government soldiers, Aguer said, adding the South’s army killed 32 insurgents and captured three.

The SSLA has advised the United Nations and aid agencies to evacuate both Unity and Warrup state in the next few days, raising fears of further violence.

South Sudan seceded in July after voting to separate in a January referendum promised in a 2005 peace deal that ended what was one of Africa’s longest-running civil wars.

(Reporting by Khaled Abdelaziz; Writing by Alexander Dziadosz; Editing by Matthew Jones)

South Kordofan unrest: Sudan ‘kills hundreds’ of rebels

Recruits for the Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA) train in a secret camp in the Nuba mountains of South Kordofan 11 July 2011. The opposition party fighting the Sudanese government is calling for a no-fly zone over two states.

Hundreds of rebels have been killed in Sudan’s South Kordofan state following clashes with the army, governor Ahmed Haroun has said.

He said the SPLM-North rebels were killed when the army repelled an assault on the city of Teludi.

The rebels have not commented on the claims but previously accused the army of “ethnic cleansing” in the oil-rich area.

The state borders South Sudan, which became independent in July.

“Hundreds of soldiers from the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM-North) were killed during an attack on the city of Teludi this morning,” Mr Haroun said.

Mr Haroun is indicted by the International Criminal Court for alleged war crimes in Darfur, where he was once the governor.

‘Three fronts’

Sudanese army spokesman, Sawarmi Khaled Saad, said more than 700 rebels attacked Teludi, east of the state capital Kadugli, the AFP news agency reports.

“The armed forces waited for the invaders to arrive on three fronts with equipment and on several vehicles, but in an hour the armed forces and popular defence forces beat back the attack, causing heavy losses,” he is quoted by AFP as saying.

South Kordofan is one of three border areas – along with Abyei and Blue Nile – to have been affected by conflict since South Sudan became independent.


Sudan lodged a complaint with the UN Security Council in August, accusing South Sudan of backing the rebels.

The SPLM, in power in South Sudan, denies Khartoum’s claims, even though it fought alongside the northern rebels during Sudan’s decades-long civil war.

Sudan agreed to give the south independence in July, but held on to South Kordofan, Abyei and Blue Nile states.

Tens of thousands of people have fled their homes because of fighting in the three states.

From Sudan, a Glimpse of a New Conflict

With shouts of “Freedom!” the people of South Sudancelebrated their newly won independence on July 9. After a decades-long civil war, the rebels of the Sudan People’s Liberation Army  who had battled the government of Omar Hassan al-Bashir could savor their success.Many of the brutal tactics they faced in this civil war were also used in Darfur by Mr. Bashir’s government. He now faces genocide charges in the International Criminal Court for the Darfur massacres.

But even though the south has now split off, the war is hardly over in Sudan. A new conflict has erupted in the Nuba Mountains and in Blue Nile State, where tens of thousands of southern-aligned rebels are now battling the Arab-dominated government of Khartoum, Sudan’s capital.

Soldiers from these two areas fought alongside southern rebels for years, but the areas are just north of the border and therefore geographically part of Sudan, not South Sudan. The people there have many of the same grievances that drove the south to fight for independence, like being discriminated against because they are not ethnically Arab. People in the Nuba Mountains and in Blue Nile complain that their areas have been neglected and marginalized for years, with few schools, roads or infrastructure – complaints the Darfur rebels have made as well.

Over the past several months, the Sudanese government has been relentlessly bombing the Nuba Mountains and Blue Nile State and demanding that the rebels in these areas disarm. In the Nuba Mountains, thousands of civilians have been hiding out in rocky caves to save themselves from the bombings.

Despite the Sudanese government’s attempts to close the area to humanitarian relief workers and journalists, the photographer Pete Muller was able to visit Blue Nile two weeks ago after a period of heavy bombing. He has provided a rare glimpse of the rebels who are now fighting to overthrow the government in Khartoum.

DESCRIPTIONPete Muller for The New York Times Rebels collected munitions destined for the front line.

“It can be an explosive situation when new borders are carved and minority groups find themselves on the side of the border that’s not comfortable for them,” said Mr. Muller, who has been covering South Sudan for two years. “This has a lot of destabilizing potential for both north and South Sudan.”

Mr. Muller, 29, found that the civilian population had almost entirely fled the Blue Nile area in face of attacks from the forces of the Bashir government. Many fled into Ethiopia and others crossed the border into South Sudan.

“There was a lot of concern over food shortages and the continuing bombing campaigns,” Mr. Muller said. “The hospitals are running out of supplies and they can’t replenish those stocks.”

The rebels in the Nuba Mountains and in Blue Nile have now formed their own political party, called the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North. Many Sudan experts believe that South Sudan is helping arm and support these rebels and that this conflict could proliferate into a full-fledged war between the two Sudans, which both have a number of pressing internal problems.

While the rebel forces in the south and those in Blue Nile and Nuba were united before the July 9 separation of Sudan, they now have distinct and separate military and political groups. Mr. Muller said it was clear that there were still strong connections between the two.

Mr. Muller wrote about witnessing the government’s bombing of the experienced rebel soldiers.

For no apparent reason, the rebels begin to scatter. With reckless abandon, they crash their Hilux pickups into elephant grass along the side of the road. Young fighters rush to camouflage the trucks with branches before taking cover in the bush. “There will be bombing,” yells Stephen Ahmed, a rebel commander, as he moves toward the relative safety of a low-lying riverbed. As a persistent droning fills the air, Stephen’s eyes, and the eyes of his men, remain fixed on the sky, hoping to spot the government’s high-altitude bombers. Soon, the roar of their payload rings out from the adjacent fields. My hands tremble with surges of adrenaline. Next to me, calloused and unfazed, a young rebel removes his sandals and washes his feet in the low waters of the river.

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