South Sudan accuses Sudan of new air strikes

Reuters , Tuesday 24 Apr 2012

South Sudan says its northern neighbor is striking deep into its territory despite ceasefire; Sudan denies

South Sudan
Residents try to extinguish fires still burning in the smouldering remains of a market in Rubkona near Bentiu in South Sudan Monday, (Photo: AP).

South Sudan accused Sudan on Tuesday of launching new aerial bombardments deep within its oil-producing Unity State, in a fresh escalation of tensions which have brought the two countries close to a full-blown war.

Sudan's army spokesman, al-Sawarmi Khalid, denied the air force had bombed anywhere inside South Sudan, which became independent in July.

South Sudan's army spokesman Philip Aguer said Sudanese Antonov aircraft had crossed up to 40 kilometers (25 miles) into its territory to bomb the settlements of Teschween, Panakuach and Roliaq. "We don't have a ceasefire with Khartoum. Khartoum is declaring war day by day," he said.

A Reuters reporter in Bentiu, capital of Unity State and about 80 km (50 miles) from the contested and poorly marked border with Sudan, said he had heard heavy bombardment in the distance and also saw tracers fired into the air all night.

"Yesterday evening and yesterday night there was heavy bombardment by Antonov aircraft of the Sudanese army of the areas of Lalop market and Panakuach," Unity State governor Taban Deng Gai told reporters.

On Monday, residents and officials said Sudanese war planes bombed a market in Bentiu, killing at least two, an attack the southern army called a declaration of war.

U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon condemned the attack and called on Sudan "to cease all hostilities immediately".

South Sudan became independent last year under a 2005 peace agreement that ended civil war. But both sides have been at loggerheads over marking the border, the ownership of mineral-rich territories and how much South Sudan should pay to export its oil through Sudan. The conflict has almost halted all oil production, the lifeline of both economies.

South Sudan on Friday announced its withdrawal from the disputed Heglig oil field it had seized earlier this month, bowing to demands from the U.N. Security Council.

Sudan has 61 combat capable aircraft, including 23 fighter aircraft, while South Sudan's armed forces have 10 helicopters but no fixed-wing aircraft, except for one Beech 1900 light transport aircraft, according to an International Institute for Strategic Studies report.

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