Sudan, S. Sudan clash despite Heglig withdrawal | News | DW | 23.04.2012
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Sudan, S. Sudan clash despite Heglig withdrawal

Clashes erupted again over the weekend between Sudan and South Sudan, as southern forces reportedly withdrew from the oil-producing region at the heart of the conflict. The south said it was "building up troops."

Sudanese and South Sudanese forces engaged in renewed military clashes on Sunday, despite the South's announcement that it had fully withdrawn its troops from the flashpoint oil-producing town of Heglig.

Sudanese ground troops launched attacks more than 10 kilometers (6 miles) deep into southern territory and conducted air raids on targets throughout the oil-producing Unity State, according to the deputy director of South Sudan's military intelligence, Mac Paul.

"We are building up troops because we think that the Sudanese army is also building up," Paul told reporters in the southern border town of Bentiu. The intelligence offer went on to describe the North's reported attack as "a serious invasion of our territory."

Sudan and South Sudan, which fought a decades-long civil war before the south seceded in July 2011, have teetered on the brink of another full scale war since southern forces occupied the town of Heglig on April 10. Heglig is internationally recognized as a part of Sudan, which South Sudan disputes.

South Sudan began its withdrawal from Heglig on Friday under intense international pressure, including from UN Secretary Ban Ki-moon, but claimed that Sudan bombed its forces as they were leaving the city.

Settlement 'remote'

The political tensions appeared to spill over into ethnic violence on Sunday when hundreds of Muslims burned a Christian church compound to the ground in the Sudanese capital of Khartoum. Sudan is predominantly Muslim while South Sudan practices Christianity and indigenous animist beliefs. Southerners living in the North have been in a state of legal limbo since the two countries split last year.

Rebels inside Sudan, meanwhile, claimed to have captured part of the strategic town of Talodi on Sunday night. Khartoum claims that the rebels in the South Kordofan State are controlled by South Sudan.

The African Union has called for "a complete cessation of all hostilities" and to "unconditionally resume negotiations." But Sudan's State Oil Minister Ishaq Adam Gamaa told the news agency Reuters that the prospecting of reaching a settlement soon was "very remote."

Gamaa went on to say Khartoum would seek compensation for the occupation of Heglig, which produces about half of Sudan's oil. The minister said Sudan lost about 40,000 barrels of production during the occupation.

slk/ai (AP, AFP, Reuters)