South accuses north Sudan of cross border attacks

November 13, 2011 (Sudan Tribune)

South Sudan’s army said on Saturday that at least five soldiers were killed on 10 November by southern “mercenaries” recruited to fight alongside north Sudan’s army to destabilise the young oil-producing country.

South Sudan says 13 rebels were killed when Kuek military base in the north east of Upper Nile state was attacked at 9am on Friday. Following the attacks, aid and development organisation Oxfam have announced that they are pulling out of Upper Nile.

Since South Sudan seceded from Sudan in July as part of a peace deal, both sides have repeatedly accused the other of arming rebels in each others territory.

On Thursday the UN accused Sudan of bombing a refugee camp in South Sudan’s Unity state, raising fears among analysts of a return to war, for the first time since a 2005 peace deal. South Sudan says 12 people died and 20 people were injured in the bombing but other reports indicate that there were no casualties.

At least five soldiers from the South Sudanese army (SPLA) were killed and 26 wounded in Friday’s attack, military spokesperson Phillip Aguer told Sudan Tribune. The SPLA officer said that 13 rebels were also killed and 47 people injured in the crossfire.

On 11 November the South Sudan Liberation Army rebel group claimed that they had captured the SPLA base in Kuek after a ’fierce battle’ in a joint operation commanded by Duoth Lam and Yien Deangby with two other rebels groups. In a press release, the SSLA said that SPLA had fled towards the south of Upper Nile state, which borders north Sudan, after the attack.

Aguer, however, dismissed the SSLA’s claims as “baseless propaganda,” maintaining that the series of attacks in Upper Nile were being carried out by the the Sudan Armed Forces - north Sudan’s military - disguising themselves as southern-based militia groups.

“Khartoum is busy recruiting mercenaries consisting of southern forces who previously belonged to SAF to destabilise South Sudan for the past one month," Aguer told Sudan Tribune.

"Their (Khartoum’s) plan, as we know, is to occupy some oil fields," Aguer told Reuters on Saturday. South Sudan’s largest rebel groups are in the border oil-producing states of Unity and Upper Nile as well as Jonglei state.

An October report from the Small Arms Survey research group said that the condition, amount and country of origin of the weapons seized from rebel groups in South Sudan raised ’questions about possible [...] relationships with Khartoum.’

Responding to the SPLA’s claims. SAF spokesman Al-Sawarmi Khalid dismissed the accusations in statements to Reuters. "We have no war or conflict with the government of South Sudan," he said. "This information is not correct."

During the SPLA’s two-decade civil war with Khartoum some southern groups fought alongside SAF against the SPLA. As part of the 2005 peace deal these groups were either taken into the SPLA or formed elements of joint SPLA-SAF units, which would have formed the basis for a national army had the south not opted for independence in a referendum in January this year.

SAF have been fighting rebels in the north Sudan states of South Kordofan - since June - and Blue Nile - since August - who fought with South Sudan during the civil war. Khartoum says that the groups are still backed by Juba, although this is denied by Juba and SPLA-N.


South Sudan’s President recently said that Khartoum’s bombing campaign in Unity state was preparation for a land invasion into the four month old country, which took with it 75% of Sudan’s oil revenue when it seceded. Most of South Sudan’s oil fields are near the shared border.

Sudan’s denial that it was responsible for Thursday’s bombing was described as a "blatant lie"by a US diplomat on Saturday. Khartoum’s representative at the UN told the press that Reuters and the BBC, whose reporters witnessed the bombings, were "biased" news organisations.

Deputy Chairman of South Sudan’s ruling SPLM in Unity state, Samuel Lony Geng, condemned the "barbaric brutal" bombing of Yida refugee camp on Thursday. The refugees had crossed the border from South Kordofan to escape fighting there.

“This is a clear encroachment of Sudan air forces into South Sudan [across the] international border" he said, calling on the United Nation Security Council to condemn the attack.

The US is understood to be drafting a resolution condemning the attacks, Reuters reported, after UN peacekeeping chief Herve Ladsous told the Council on Friday that United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) has "confirmed that the Sudan Armed Forces dropped at least two bombs near the Yida refugee camp".

BBC and Reuters reports indicate that five bombs were dropped. One bomb, which did not explode, landed near a school.

UN human rights chief Navi Pillay, according to Reuters, has said that an "international crime or serious human rights violation" may have been committed and the bombing should be investigated.

However, SAF spokesman Sawarmi told AFP, "This information is completely false. We didn’t bomb any camps or any areas inside the borders of South Sudan".


Peter Lam Both, Upper Nile’s information and broadcasting minister told Sudan Tribune on Saturday that another rebel attack occurred in Sieth boma [sub district] of Maban county in North Easter Upper Nile. He said that the 10 injured people were taken to Malakal hospital.

Like Aguer, Both blamed the attack on north Sudan’s military, who were also accused of bombing Upper Nile on Friday. The BBC reported Saturday that aid organisation Oxfam was leaving Upper Nile as it had become too dangerous for their staff.

Oxfam’s announcement comes after an SSLA press release on 11 November SSLA called on civilians, the UN and other groups in Upper Nile to evacuate Renk, Maluth and Malakal towns within the week, claiming that the ’revolutionary forces will liberate those towns very soon.’

The rebel group gave the same warning to people and aid workers in Bentiu, the capital of Unity state. The statement advised that refugees in Unity state, who had been displaced from fighting in South Kordofan in north Sudan, be moved from the area to avoid being caught in the cross fire.


Reports indicate that both sides are increasing their military presence along the ill-defined north-south border.

Oxfam said that before their staff pulled out of Upper Nile they had "seen the military build-up for the past few days." On Friday a monitoring group, said that satellite images appeared to show SAF was enhancing its air bases in Kurmuk, in Sudan’s Blue Nile state.


Small Arms Survey photos of weapons seized by the SPLA from South Sudan rebels in Unity and Upper Nile states.

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