Rebels kill 24 South Sudan’s soldiers
AS an international aid plan falls behind schedule despite warnings about dare humanitarian situation in Sudan’s South Kordofan, United Nations (UN) officials indicated yesterday that thousands of people have been displaced by fighting in the area.
Agency reports claimed that more than 8,700 people have fled the fighting in Rashad district of northeastern South Kordofan state.
The uprooting of thousands of villagers adds to more than 650,000 which the UN said were already displaced or severely affected by the fighting in South Kordofan and Blue Nile, where related conflicts began in June and September last year.
Meanwhile, a senior military official has disclosed that 24 South Sudanese soldiers were killed in clashes with a militia group that the southern government accuses of subverting a disarmament campaign.
According to South Sudan army spokesman, Col. Philip Aguer, an additional 12 soldiers were wounded and 17 are still missing from the August 22 ambush of 200 South Sudanese troops who had been sent to quell alleged rebel activity in Jonglei State, the scene of a disarmament programme that Human Rights Watch criticises as too violent.
Aguer said the rebels are led by an elusive militant named Yau Yau and that they are backed by South Sudan’s northern neighbour Sudan, which consistently denies similar allegations.
However, relations between the two Sudans are tense, particularly along the border between the two countries.
“We’ve heard that entire villages may have been displaced,” a United Nations source said. “There may be up to four villages,” including Al Moreib which has been the focus of recent fighting, said the source who requested anonymity.
The Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N), which said more than 5,000 people have fled the area, reported that combat with government forces continued around Al Moreib yesterday following aerial bombardment in the region on Sunday.
Rebels first reported a battle in Al Moreib on Friday.
Late Saturday, the army said it had “clashed with the rebels and drove them outside the area” where they had been “terrorising and intimidating” residents.
Some rebels then took to nearby hills, where troops are moving against them “and fighting is going on,” army spokesman Sawarmi Khaled Saad told AFP yesterday.
Both sides claimed to have killed dozens of their opponents but access to the region is restricted, making verification of casualty claims difficult.
The UN has expressed concern for months about a worsening humanitarian situation in the war zone, where Khartoum cited security concerns in tightly restricting the operations of foreign aid agencies.