November 3, 2011 (KHARTOUM) – The Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) on Thursday announced its troops have entered the border town of Kurmuk after heavy battles with fighters from the Sudan People Liberation Movement North (SPLM-N).
- FILE - Soldiers from Sudan’s army celebrate after gaining control of the area, at the Blue Nile state capital al-Damazin, September 5, 2011 (Reuters)
SAF said in a statement that they managed to ’fully liberate and secure’ the town which lies on the borders with Ethiopia.
’With the thanks and blessings of Allah the armed forces managed on Thursday evening the 3rd of November to destroy the powers of oppression and aggression from the remnants of the so called popular army in al-Kurmuk town and to fully liberate and secure it.’
’The enemy forces fled led by rebel Malik Agar leaving behind its equipments and weapons.’
Agar was the former elected governor of Blue Nile state until he was sacked by president Omer Hassan al-Bashir last September following clashes between SAF and SPLM-N.
Both sides traded blame over who started the clashes which saw SAF managing to expel SPLM-N forces from most of the border state with the exception of al-Kurmuk which was considered the rebel stronghold.
Yesterday the Sudanese president vowed that the town would be liberated before Eid Al-Adha religious holiday which starts on Sunday.
SPLM-N acknowledged that SAF took over Kurmuk but said they withdrew beforehand.
"The SPLM-N emptied the town because they were expecting the SAF to attack. But they are in many other areas of Blue Nile," a SPLM-N spokesperson in Blue Nile Suleiman Osman told Agence France Presse (AFP).
"Don’t imagine that the SAF entering Kurmuk is the end of the war, or total defeat for the SPLM-N. They will fight back," Osman said.
The SPLM-N spokesperson further said added that Agar was safe and unhurt but did not disclose his whereabouts.
Osman also suggested that SAF used chemical weapons in their assault on Kurmuk.
"Some of the injured (rebels) had strange bleeding from their ears and noses. I talked to one of them on the phone and he was in a bad way. It seems the government took a decision to use some sort of chemical weapon," he said.
SAF’s victory would likely boost the government’s standing domestically as it battles SPLM-N also in the state of South Kordofan.
Khartoum also repeated accusations that South Sudan is providing support to SPLM-N in both states.