|South Sudan accuses Khartoum of airstrikes, ground assault|
AFP March 26, 2012 2:02 PM
JUBA, South Sudan — Sudanese aircraft and ground troops attacked multiple positions in South Sudan's oil rich border regions Monday, sparking fierce battles and prompting Southern President Salva Kiir to warn of war.
"This morning the (Sudanese) airforce came and bombed . . . areas in Unity state," Kiir said at the opening of a ruling party meeting in the southern capital Juba.
"After this intensive bombardment our forces . . . . were attacked by SAF (Sudan Armed Forces) and militia," he added, noting his troops had since fought back and crossed into a key northern oil field.
"It is a war that has been imposed on us again, but it is they (Khartoum) who are looking for it," said Kiir, adding that he did not want conflict to resume.
However Sudanese army spokesman, Sawarmi Khaled Saad, said only "limited clashes" had occurred between his forces and those of South Sudan along the disputed border between the two countries.
Kiir said Southern troops, the Sudan Peoples Liberation Army (SPLA), had driven northern forces back across the undemarcated border and seized Khartoum's key oil field of Heglig, parts of which are claimed by both sides.
"They attacked our forces and our forces were able to repulse them.. and they ran," Kiir added. "The last information that came to me was that our forces have also taken over Heglig."
South Sudanese army spokesman Philip Aguer said that fighting was ongoing when he last spoke to frontline troops, just over an hour before dusk.
"There are casualties but we don't have the full report . . . at the last communication, which is very difficult, there was still fighting," Aguer said, but also added the army was not wanting the clashes to spiral into war.
"This was an act of self-defence on behalf of the SPLA, and we still commit ourselves to all the security agreements between us — despite all this fighting we are committed to peace," Aguer added.
© Copyright (c) AFP
Read more: vancouversun.com