Clashes in flashpoint Sudan region kill at least 16
By Skye Wheeler
Jan 15, 2009 (Reuters)
At least 16 people were killed in separate clashes between soldiers from South Sudan's army and armed nomads in the country's South Kordofan state, officials said on Thursday.
The outbreaks of fighting on Tuesday highlighted tensions in the central region, which analysts have warned has become a flashpoint that could disrupt a troubled north-south peace deal.
Six nomads and one soldier died in a gun battle around Khor al-Dalayb village, South Kordofan's state information minister Ali Kuku told Reuters, saying a number of small confrontations had escalated into full-blown fighting.
Another nine nomads were shot dead the same day in an area called Abre, Kuku added.
Kuku said soldiers from South Sudan's army had found a stash of arms in a vehicle driven by the nomads. The soldiers opened fire as the nomads fled the scene, he said.
The region was one of the key battle fields in the two-decade war between northern and southern Sudan that ended in the signing of the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement.
It remains part of northern Sudan. But many residents feel they have been neglected in the terms of the peace agreement.
Rights group Sudan Organisation Against Torture said the fighting in Khor al-Dalayb was "symptomatic of the worsening security situation and symbolised the waning hold of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement in the region."
Tribal conflicts over land rights have also complicated the situation.
The south's President Salva Kiir has stated frequently that the northern nomads are welcome to leave South Kordofan to graze cattle in the south's lush wetlands during the dry season as they have for generations, but that weapons must be left behind.
Nomad leaders have said this is unrealistic because of armed raiders.
The soldiers involved in Tuesday's fighting were part of the southern Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA) which is working alongside northern troops in the region in Joint Integrated Units, set up under the peace deal.
The south's army spokesman Peter Parnyang told Reuters there was a history of SPLA soldiers recruited from South Kordofan "acting on their own". (Editing by Andrew Heavens)
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