KHARTOUM Nov 2 (Reuters) - Sudanese insurgents in the country's main
oil-producing state South Kordofan battled government forces in a volatile
border region for a second day on Wednesday, a rebel spokesman said.
Sudan's military denied the assertion, however, saying the region was quiet
after the army repulsed a rebel attack on Tuesday.
Fighting along Sudan's border with South Sudan has complicated talks over
unresolved issues such as how to manage the formerly integrated oil
industry, and analysts say it has threatened to drag the old civil war foes
into a proxy conflict.
The countries have accused one another of backing rebel groups in areas near
the border since South Sudan split off into a separate country in July.
Qamar Dalman, a spokesman for the rebel Sudan People's Liberation Army-North
(SPLA-N) in South Kordofan, said insurgents were continuing to advance on
the town of Taludi on Wednesday.
"There is heavy fighting around Taludi between SPLA forces and the Sudanese
army. The SPLA army is very close to the city. The Sudanese army is bombing
from military planes," he said by telephone.
Al-Sawarmi Khalid, Sudan's army spokesman, dismissed the claim. "There is
not any fighting or clashes today around Taludi. Everything is quiet," he
Both sides claimed to have killed hundreds of their opponents during a rebel
assault on Taludi on Tuesday, although neither report was possible to verify
Conflict has torn South Kordofan and Blue Nile, both states on Sudan's side
of the border and home to tens of thousands of fighters who sided with the
south during a decades-long civil war that killed some 2 million people.
Rebels say they have been politically and economically marginalised by
Sudan's government, while Khartoum accuses the insurgents of trying to
spread chaos and says it will not tolerate armed rebel militias on its side
of the border.
South Sudan seceded after voting for independence in a January referendum
promised in a 2005 peace deal that ended one of Africa's longest and
deadliest civil wars. (Reporting by Khalid Abdelaziz; Writing by Alexander
Dziadosz; Editing by Mark Heinrich)
* Rebels prevent some civilians from fleeing, residents say
* Kenyan military warns Somalis to stay away from rebel bases
* Eritrea denies it supplying arms to al Shabaab
* Incursions risk galvanising support for militants (.)
By Abdi Sheikh and Sahra Abdi
MOGADISHU, Nov 2 (Reuters) - Somalia braced for Kenyan air attacks on
Wednesday and Islamist militants stopped civilians from fleeing at least one
likely strike zone.
Kenya, which sent troops into lawless Somalia nearly three weeks ago to
crush the al Shabaab militant network, said on Tuesday it planned "imminent"
air raids on militant bases and warned residents to stay clear of them.
Kenya's warning of air bombardments was prompted by reports the al
Qaeda-linked militants had received two consignments of weapons, flown into
the rebel-controlled town of Baidoa.
Eritrea dismissed media reports it had delivered the arms cache as "outright
lies" meant to dirty its reputation.
Some 24 hours after Kenya gave its warning, there were no raids reported in
the ten rebel strongholds where it had advised civilians to stay clear of
"(Al Shabaab) ordered us to stay and die at the hands of Christian Kenya, to
dwell in paradise," Abdikadir Weydow, a resident of the southern town of
Afmadow, told Reuters.
Afmadow, a rebel bastion and strategic transit point for contraband smuggled
through rebel-controlled Kismayu port, is seen as a likely flashpoint for a
confrontation between Kenyan forces and al Shabaab militants.
Kenyan and Somali government troops, as well as militia nominally allied to
Somalia's government, have set up forward positions close to Afmadow.
In many other towns, including Baardheere, Baidoa and Afgoye, many people
were preparing to escape, hoping to lie low in the bush or reach the Kenyan
"We are determined to flee to the jungle. We cannot stay in a town which is
to be bombed," said Baardheere resident Yusuf Guled.
Others, too poor to afford the transport or encumbered by elderly relatives,
were hunkering down in anticipation of an aerial assault.
Kenya's army spokesman Emmanuel Chirchir told Reuters on Tuesday its forces
would not target civilians, but warned they needed to stay away from rebel
bases to avoid being caught up in the fighting.
Kenya was tracking two consignments of weapons destined for al Shabaab that
had been flown into the Horn of Africa country in the past two days, and
would strike any rebel bases where the arms were delivered, he said.
Eritrea denied it had sent the arms cache.
"The government of Eritrea states categorically that these accusations are
pure fabrications and outright lies as Eritrea has not sent any arms to
Somalia," Eritrea's foreign ministry said in a rare statement.
"Tuesday's baseless accusations are the latest product of a misinformation
campaign orchestrated to undermine Eritrea and frustrate its constructive
regional and international engagement, it said. Eritrea rarely comments on
MILITARY BUILD UP
Kenya sent ground troop reinforcements towards the Somali border on
Wednesday, a Reuters witness said.
Columns of armoured vehicles and military trucks were seen heading to two
frontier points from the town of Garissa, in northern Kenya, late on Tuesday
and early Wednesday.
A military source said one convoy would cross the porous border at Liboi
while the second would enter through the Hulugo border point and join the
pro-Somali government Ras Kamboni militia group.
A Kenyan military officer recently arrived in Garissa from inside Somalia
told Reuters preparations were being completed for a major offensive against
"We are set for the mother of all the battles. It's no longer jet fighters
alone that will fight them, we are all moving to hit al Shabaab," said the
officer who declined to be named.
Kenya, east Africa's biggest economy, has long looked warily at its lawless
neighbour and accuses al Shabaab of frequent attacks on its security forces
Residents in the Kenyan border town of El Wak said suspected Somali gunmen
fired indiscriminately at buildings and a mortar hit a guesthouse in the
early hours of Wednesday.
"There were gunshots from the Somali side last night. A mortar also landed
on our side. No one was killed or hurt in the incident," said North Eastern
Province police commander Leo Nyongesa.
Kenya is the latest in a string of foreign powers to send in soldiers in a
bid to stabilise the chaotic country.
Some Horn of Africa analysts says Kenya's deployment inside Somalia lacks
the military muscle to deal a mortal blow to al Shabaab, blamed for a spate
of kidnappings and attacks on security forces in Kenya.
Kenya's offensive, they say, risks galvanising support for the militants.
"We believe we shall die in Kenya's bombardment. Kenya's action will create
animosity and trouble between Kenyan and Somali civilians," Afmadow resident
Weydow said. (Additional reporting by Richard Lough, Sahra Abdi and Yara
Bayoumy in Nairobi and Noor Ali in Garissa; Writing by Richard Lough;
Editing by Louise Ireland)
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Received on Wed Nov 02 2011 - 13:31:08 EDT