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Fresh Clashes Erupt Along Sudan-South Sudan Border

4/23/2012 2:57 AM ET

Fresh fighting has erupted along the border separating Sudan and and South Sudan despite the withdrawal of South Sudanese troops from a disputed oil-rich town seized from Sudanese troops earlier this month, media reports citing officials from both nations said late on Sunday.

South Sudanese military officials confirmed the latest border clashes and insisted that the country's security forces had successfully repulsed Sudanese ground and air attacks. Sudanese officials also acknowledged that fresh fighting was progressing along the volatile border.

The latest development comes after South Sudan announced on Friday last that it was withdrawing its troops from the oil-rich Heglig border region. Nevertheless, Sudanese military insisted that the withdrawal was forced by an offensive launched by its troops.

It is not yet clear on which side of the border the current fighting is taking place. However, satellite images showed extensive damages to the oil facility in Heglig, suggesting that heavy fighting had taken place there. It is not clear which side was responsible for the damage.

South Sudanese troops had seized the oil-rich Heglig border region from the Sudanese Army early last week amid heavy fighting along their shared border. Sudan had then pledged to use "all legitimate means" to recapture the oil field and warned of "destruction" in the South. Sudan also withdrew from negotiations on post-secession issues with the South and lodged separate complaints with the United Nations as well as the African Union about South Sudan's "aggression."

Further, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said on Thursday last that the capture of Sudan's Heglig oil field by South Sudanese troops was illegal, and urged the South's government in Juba to withdraw its forces from the oil field at the earliest to prevent the ongoing border clashes from escalating into a full-fledged war.

The U.N. chief also urged the government of Sudan in Khartoum to immediately stop shelling and bombing South Sudanese territory and withdraw its forces from disputed areas, particularly from the oil-rich border region of Abyei. He also called on the two nations to end their current hostilities at the earliest, and appealed to them to avoid returning to a conflict that had already cost them millions of lives over the last two decades.

Border clashes between Sudan and South Sudan erupted late last month, marking the biggest confrontation between the two sides after South Sudan seceded from Sudan in July last year in line with a 2005 peace agreement ending 22 years of civil war between the Arab North and the Christian and animist South. More than 100,000 people are said to have been displaced by the ongoing hostilities.

South Sudan had gained control of nearly 75 percent of Sudan's oil production with a daily output of around 500,000 barrels when they declared independence on July 9 last year. The two nations are yet to resolve several outstanding post-secession issues and settle disputes over oil transit fees. Both countries are heavily dependent on oil revenues.

by RTT Staff Writer

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