(Updates with death toll in first paragraph.)
June 15 (Bloomberg) -- As many as 64 people have died in air strikes by Sudanese planes and 60,000 people fled their homes due to fighting between government forces and units of Southern Sudan’s army in Southern Kordofan state, the United Nations said.
“There is a growing sense of panic among some of the displaced populations who find themselves trapped by the ongoing violence and the ethnic fault lines,” the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said today in an e-mailed statement. Other civilians are still hiding in mountainous areas in the state. The clashes began on June 5.
Sudanese fighter jets dropped 11 bombs on the northern oil- producing state yesterday, the UN said. Clashes along the north- south border have raised concern about a resumption of the two- decade civil war in sub-Saharan Africa’s third-biggest oil producer that ended with a 2005 peace agreement.
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 when it becomes independent next month. The crude is pumped mainly by China National Petroleum Corp., Malaysia’s Petroliam Nasional Bhd and India’s Oil & Natural Gas Corp.
The state accounts for about 115,000 barrels per day, according to Sudan’s minister of state for oil, Ali Ahmed Osman.
Nuba Ethnic Group
The clashes, which began on June 5, may have broken out when northern forces tried to disarm members of the Nuba ethnic group who fought on the side of Southern Sudan in the civil war, according to the south’s army spokesman, Philip Aguer. The fighting doesn’t involve the Southern Sudanese army based in the regional capital, Juba, he said on June 5.
New York-based Human Rights Watch has accused Sudanese government forces of “widespread abuses” in Southern Kordofan, saying in a July 10 statement that witnesses reported house-to- house searches and executions.
The Sudanese government will continue to bomb areas in the state where a rebellion is under way by members of Southern Sudan’s armed forces, army spokesman Al-Sawarmi Khaled said yesterday by phone from Khartoum.
“The army is taking military actions to try to quell the recent rebellion,” Khaled said. “These military operations will continue until we completely end this rebellion.”
--With assistance from Matt Richmond in Juba, Southern Sudan. Editors: Karl Maier, Digby Lidstone.
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