April 19, 2012 (JUBA/BENTUI) – The army of South Sudan today has denied reports that the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) took back control of the oil-rich region of Heglig.
- A picture taken on April 17, 2012 shows soldiers of the South-Sudan’s Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) pointing towards a circling Antonov in Heglig. (ADRIANE OHANESIAN/AFP/Getty Images)
On Wednesday, the Sudanese president Omer Hassan al-Bashir promised “good news” from the Heglig front within ‘hours’ which was understood to mean that SAF was on its way to reclaim the area occupied by Juba since last week.
But the spokesperson of South Sudan army Phillip Aguer told Sudan Tribune on Thursday that SAF’s claims to have entered Heglig is a "white lie” aimed at diverting attention from the actual situation on the ground.
"Yesterday [Wednesday] the SPLA defeated the advancing forces of Sudan Armed Forces, took control of Katasla [Kilo23] and captured three tanks plus lots of military equipments from the enemy," Aguer said by phone.
He said the Sudanese army was simply "retreating back to its territory" while the SPLA continued to advance and will soon complete the liberation of its border territories in Upper Nile, Unity and Northern Bahr el Ghazal states.
- James Gatduel Gatluak, SPLA division 4 commander in Heglig oil field April 17, 2012 (ST)
The commander of the SPLA’s 4th division, James Gatduel Gatluak, told Sudan Tribune on Wednesday from Heglig that his forces were prepared for a SAF offensive.
Gatluak said his forces were in full control of South Sudan’s border 40 miles north of Heglig town. He dismissed Khartoum’s claims that Heglig is part of their territory, citing the 1956 border between the countries as demarcated by the ex-colonial Egyptian-British administration.
Sudan’s parliament declared South Sudan an enemy state on Monday and on Wednesday president Bashir vowed to remove the SPLM from power in Juba, further ratcheting up the war rhetoric between the two sides.
On Tuesday groups of journalists including a Sudan Tribune reporter toured Heglig where multiple corpses were seen strewn on the ground.
- Oil facility destroyed by the recent clashes between SPLA and SAF in Heglig and the corpse of a SAF soldier, April 17, 2012 (ST)