(Updates with comment from Southern Sudan’s army starting in second paragraph.)
June 7 (Bloomberg) -- One Sudanese government soldier was killed in clashes with Southern Sudan’s forces in the north’s only oil-producing state, the SUNA news agency reported, as tension escalates a month before the south’s independence.
The fatality and the wounding of seven others occurred when Southern Sudanese troops attacked northern Sudanese forces on June 5 on the outskirts of Kadugli, the capital of Southern Kordofan state, state-run SUNA reported yesterday, citing army spokesman Al-Sawarmi Khaled. Southern Sudanese army spokesman Philip Aguer said his forces weren’t involved in the fighting.
United Nations spokesman Kouider Zerrouk confirmed that shooting took place on June 5 and said troops from the two armies clashed yesterday in Kadugli. He said he didn’t have details on casualties or what caused the violence. 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 in 2005.
Sudanese President Umar 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 Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile states are members of the southern army and fought for the south in the civil war, according to Fouad Hikmat, the special adviser on Sudan for the Brussels-based International Crisis Group.
‘Nowhere To Go’
“We don’t have Southern Sudanese in that area,” Aguer said today by phone from Juba, the regional capital. The fighters in Southern Kordofan are members of the Nuba ethnic group from that state, he said. “If Khartoum wants to disarm them by force, this is the result.”
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.
Greater Nile Petroleum Operating Co. and Petro Energy E&P Co. operate blocks in Southern Kordofan. The concessions are mostly owned by China National Petroleum Corp. Other stakes are held by Malaysia’s Petroliam Nasional Bhd, or Petronas, and India’s Oil & Natural Gas Corp.
The fighting may have broken out when northern forces tried to disarm members of the Nuba ethnic group in Southern Kordofan state, who fought on the side of Southern Sudan in the civil war against the government in Khartoum, Aguer said.
Under a 2005 peace accord, 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. The two states and Abyei were key battlegrounds during the war between the north and the south.
Sudan’s army occupied Abyei on May 21, accusing Southern Sudanese forces of attacking its soldiers two days earlier, and rejected calls by the UN Security Council to withdraw from the disputed region. The seizure sparked an exodus of about 96,000 people, according to UN estimates.
Looting continued in Abyei even after the Sudanese Armed Forces pledged to stop it, the UN peacekeeping mission in Sudan said yesterday in an e-mailed statement. “We urge the SAF to uphold its commitment and intervene to stop these criminal acts,” it said.
‘Release All Civilians’
The UN mission is also asking the armed forces to “release all civilians who are still in their custody,” grant peacekeepers access to the entire Abyei region and “immediately stop its artillery fire” from the vicinity of the UN compound in Abyei town, the statement said.
“This artillery fire is a security threat for the UN presence, patrols and flights in Abyei and creates high risks for civilians who may be willing to return to their villages,” the mission said.
--Editors: Karl Maier, Heather Langan.
To contact the reporters on this story: Maram Mazen in Khartoum at firstname.lastname@example.org; Matt Richmond in Juba at email@example.com.
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Andrew J. Barden at firstname.lastname@example.org.