Sudan’s army is sending reinforcements to southern Blue Nile state where government forces are battling rebels, state media reported.
Three battalions are being dispatched to “strengthen the security of the state,” the Sudanese Media Centre reported late yesterday from Khartoum, the capital. One has arrived in Damazin, the state capital, with the others due in the coming days, it said.
Fighting between government forces and rebels of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North broke out in Southern Kordofan state in June 2011 and spread to Blue Nile. Clashes in recent months have undermined efforts by the African Union to negotiate an agreement to establish a demilitarized border zone with South Sudan and allow the south to restart oil exports through Sudan.
The authorities in Khartoum accuse South Sudan of backing the rebels. The SPLM-N fought alongside South Sudanese forces during the two-decade civil war that ended with a peace agreement in 2005 and southern independence in 2011.
Both the government and the rebels reported clashes last month in the Muffa area of Blue Nile. The fighting on Feb. 14-17 forced 8,000 residents to flee toward the borders with South Sudan and Ethiopia, the SPLM-N said in a statement.
Goverment forces killed more than 60 rebels in the “liberation” of Muffa, Sudanese army spokesman Al-Sawarmi Khaled said in a statement to the state-run Suna news agency.
A week later, rebels said fighting had spread to Kurmuk, a town near the Ethiopian border. Khaled denied the reports in a Feb. 25 phone interview.
President Umar al-Bashir’s government has refused to allow South Sudan to resume oil shipments through its territory as agreed in September, accusing the authorities in Juba of continuing to support rebels in Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile.
South Sudan shut down its 350,000 barrels-a-day in crude production in January 2012 after accusing Khartoum of stealing $815 million of its oil. Sudan said it took the oil to recover unpaid transportation and processing fees. That and other disputes, including over border security, brought the countries to the brink of war in April.
The oil is pumped mainly by China National Petroleum Corp., Malaysia’s Petroliam Nasional Bhd. and India’s ONGC Videsh Ltd.
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