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S. Sudan completes withdrawal from flashpoint oil field

In move expected to ease mounting tension between Khartoum and Juba, the South's Sudanese Peoples Liberation Army (SPLA) withdraws from Sudanese oil town Heglig

AFP , Sunday 22 Apr 2012
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South Sudan's army has completed its withdrawal from Sudan's main Heglig oil field, the military said Sunday, but condemned the north for bombing the area.

Juba seized the flashpoint oil hub on 10 April, claiming that Khartoum was using Heglig as a base to attack the South's oil-producing Unity State. Although South Sudan disputes it, Heglig is internationally regarded as part of Sudan.

The South's Sudanese Peoples Liberation Army (SPLA) "completed its withdrawal from Heglig yesterday," the South's military spokesman Philip Aguer told AFP.

But he charged that Sudan "continued bombing" the area on Friday and on Saturday morning.

UN chief Ban Ki-Moon branded Juba's ten-day occupation of the region illegal and US President Barack Obama has said the long-time rivals must negotiate to avoid further military escalation along their contested and volatile border.

On Friday, Sudan said its soldiers had "liberated" the oil field by force, speaking after South Sudanese President Salva Kiir had already announced that Juba had decided to carryout "an orderly withdrawal."

Since the invasion, production at Heglig has been shut and facilities there were leaking. Each side accused the other of damaging the oil infrastructure, which accounted for about half of the north's production.

The Heglig violence was the worst since South Sudan won independence in July after a 1983-2005 civil war in which about two million people died.

Tensions have gradually mounted over the disputed border and other unresolved issues.

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