S. Sudan says to start withdrawing from Heglig oil region
Fri Apr 20, 2012 11:51am GMT
(Adds background, SPLA spokesman quotes)
JUBA, April 20 (Reuters) - South Sudan said on Friday it will start the
immediate withdrawal of its troops from the Heglig oil region, following the
worst border violence between Sudan and the South since secession.
South Sudan's Information Minister Barnaba Marial Benjamin told reporters
the withdrawal will be completed within three days.
The newly-independent South last week seized the Heglig oilfield, previously
under Sudan's control. Khartoum vowed to recapture the region and global
powers have urged the South to withdraw to avert a broader war.
Fighting between the two sides has been fuelled by territorial disputes,
ethnic animosity and quarrels over oil.
"The Republic of South Sudan announces that SPLA troops have been ordered to
withdraw from Panthou (Heglig)," Benjamin said, citing orders from President
"An orderly withdrawal will commence immediately, and shall be completed
within three days," he said.
South Sudan wants the status of Heglig to be determined by international
arbitration, Benjamin added.
Sudan's President Omar Hassan al-Bashir all but declared war against the
South on Thursday, vowing to teach its rulers a "final lesson by force".
Philip Aguer, spokesman for South Sudan's army, said earlier on Friday that
aerial bombardment had caused the central processing facility at Heglig to
catch fire on Thursday.
"A MiG yesterday bombed oil facilities in Heglig and one facility was hit,
the central processing facility, which separates water from crude oil," he
said. "It caught fire yesterday and was burning."
Aguer said the oilfield was still under the South's control on Thursday
evening after it repulsed a large attack, but there was no immediate comment
on his claims from Sudanese officials.
Limited access for independent journalists to Sudan's remote conflict zones
makes it difficult to confirm the often contradictory claims issued by all
Disputes over ideology, religion, ethnicity and oil fuelled Sudan's civil
war, waged for all but a few years from 1955 to 2005. Some 2 million people
died in the conflict. (Reporting by Ulf Laessing and Hereward Holland;
Writing by Alexander Dziadosz; Editing by Louise Ireland)