Sudan: Govt Vows Response After Surprise Loss of Oil-Rich Town to SPLA
11 April 2012
Juba - The Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) on Tuesday acknowledged that it has
lost control of the oil-rich town of Heglig following what it said was an
attack by South Sudan's People Liberation Army (SPLA) and "mercenaries".
South Sudan government, was the first to speak about the fighting earlier
today when it denounced air attacks by Sudan air force targeting a strategic
bridge in Abiemnhom which is situated west of Mayom town that is part of the
Juba claimed that the bombing injured four civilians including one child.
South Sudan minister of Information and official spokesperson, Barnaba
Benjamin Marial, urged the United Nations Security Council (UNSC), African
Union and Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD) to condemn
Khartoum's "act of violation" in South Sudan's airspace which he said is
contrary to international principles.
Phillip Aguer, the spokesperson of South Sudan army described SAF's attacks
as "provocative" stressing that their army is on full alert to respond to
any form of aggression inside their territories.
However, Aguer could not confirm to Sudan Tribune whether the SPLA actually
entered Heglig as Khartoum has asserted.
"What I can tell you is that two brigades of Sudan Armed Forces, backed with
16 tanks and accompanied by members of the Mujahedeen and other militias
loyal to Khartoum advanced towards Unity State with the intent to capture
and occupy the oil fields, but our forces repulsed them towards Heglig,"
Aguer said on Wednesday.
Today the head of the SPLA in Unity State told Sudan Tribune that South
Sudan's army managed to capture the oil-rich area of Heglig in Sudan's South
Kordofan state on Monday afternoon after repulsing an attack by SAF.
According to the commander of the SPLA's fourth division, James Gatduel
Gatluak, SAF launched air and ground attacks that forced them to respond by
engaging the Sudanese army and taking control of Heglig on Tuesday.
In Khartoum the Sudanese government issued a statement on Tuesday night
carried by state media condemning the "blatant aggressive behavior" of South
Sudanese troops and announced that it retains the right to repeal the
aggression and use all the legitimate means to defend the integrity of its
Sudan's official spokesman of the Armed Forces Colonel Al-Sawarmi Khalid
The SAF spokesperson Colonel Al-Sawarmi Khalid Sa'ad said that "fierce
battles" are still ongoing but did not address reports that Heglig has
fallen out of Khartoum's hands. He said the attack on Heglig comes in line
with the "aggressive positions" of South Sudan President Salva Kiir who
wishes to prolong the war between the Sudan and South Sudan.
Col. Sa'ad was referring to statements made by Salva Kiir last month in Juba
where he said that Heglig is part of South Sudan territory.
Later SAF spokesperson admitted to the BBC that South Sudanese troops are
currently inside Heglig.
"Now the [soldiers] from South Sudan they are inside Heglig city, and the
oilfield, they conquered the Sudanese army outside of Heglig," Col. Sa'ad
"The South Sudanese attacked our Sudanese army in Heglig, as you know Heglig
is not part of South Sudan," he continued.
Meanwhile, the rebel Sudan People's Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N) sent
a statement on Wednesday morning via email without attribution saying that
the "Sudan Revolutionary Forces (SRF)" have taken full control of Heglig and
advanced 30 kilometers towards Kadugli, capital of South Kordofan.
Sudan Tribune was unable to reach any official from SRF for details.
A security source confirmed to Sudan Tribune on Tuesday that SAF withdrew
from Heglig and that oil workers were evacuated for the most part. He
disclosed that it was the Sudanese army ordering its troops to pull out.
A special forces unit originally headed to rebel stronghold of Kauda in
South Kordofan was caught in the fighting and incurred heavy losses, the
source said but did not provide figures.
A Sudanese man who works in the oil industry, who did not want to be named,
told the BBC that Sudan began the fighting while another source suggested
that SAF was trying to regain a post on the disputed border they had lost
two weeks ago.
There were unconfirmed reports later on Tuesday that SAF has started an
aerial bombardment campaign. However, it is likely that Khartoum will
exercise extreme caution so as not to cause damage to oil infrastructure
The escalation of clashes between the two will deal a severe blow to the
African Union mediated process led by its chairman Thabo Mbeki which aims at
resolving post-independence issues.
Sudan and South Sudan reaffirmed different times in the past that they do
not want war but every side yet emphasizes that it is simply defending its
territory and accuses the other of using rebel groups as proxies.
South Sudan government spokesman said prior to his press conference today
that he had held talks with president Salva Kiir during which he reiterated
the government's position that it will not be dragged into a "senseless" war
North and South Sudan fought over two decades of a bloody civil war, which
ended with the 2005 signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA). The
contentious border issue between the two countries, he said, can only be
amicably resolved through peaceful dialogue not war.
The Sudanese ministry of information said the attack on Heglig comes at the
heels of a visit by Mbeki to Khartoum where Sudan underscored its commitment
to reaching a peaceful resolution of contentious issues through dialogue. It
vowed to use "all means" to defeat the attack.
The rebel groups operating near the border from the two sides are accused of
taking part in the fight or even of being the instigators of the attacks.
This was the case of the first attack on Heglig last month.
In a related issue, a Sudanese journalist told Sudan Tribune from Khartoum
that authorities instructed them to stick to official statements on Heglig
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Received on Wed Apr 11 2012 - 13:12:11 EDT