March 26, 2012 (BENTIU) – The Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) bombed oilfields in South Sudan’s Unity State on Tuesday morning in an escalation of large scale clashes that began on Monday.
Sudan Tribune’s reporter in Bentiu, the capital of Unity State, said that at 9am local time he saw SAF warplanes dropping bombs on oil fields located 20 km from Rukotana town.
News of the bombing has also been carried by Reuters which cited confirmation by the oil firm Greater Nile Petroleum Operating Company (GNPOC), a joint venture between China, India, and Malaysia.
The bombing followed the eruption of clashes on Monday between SAF and South Sudan’s army, known as the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA), around the oil-rich town of Heglig.
South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir announced the SPLA’s takeover of Heglig and claimed that the military escalation was provoked by SAF which, according to him, launched aerial attacks on Jau and Pan Akuach followed by a ground forces assault against another area called Teshwin.
Echoing Kiir’s claims, Unity State minister of Information and Communication, Gideon Gatpan Thoar, told Sudan Tribune Monday that the clashes in Heglig started when SAF attacked the Teshwin area which is “the junction between Heglig oilfields and Pariang” County.
He further confirmed that SAF had been engaged in aerial bombardment of oilfields in Unity State since yesterday, saying that SPLA forces were currently “defending the country against SAF’s aggression.”
The Heglig clashes and the subsequent bombing of oilfields in Unity State ended a period of diplomatic rapprochement that saw the recently-separated countries reaching framework agreements on nationality and borders. The confrontation raises the possibility of Khartoum and Juba going back to full-scale war.
The clashes have also led to the cancellation of Al-Bashir’s planned summit with Kiir in Juba on 3 April.
The Sudanese 2nd Vice-President al-Haj Adam Youssef, in a live TV program, stressed that the repercussions of the Heglig attack does not allow for the visit to take place and accused South Sudan of plotting to control Heglig from the very beginning to prevent Sudan from using the oil wells.
Youssef warned that any attack on Sudan’s territory will be dealt with swiftly and emphasised that the attack will not pass lightly even if Juba makes a formal apology.