By Bonifacio Taban Kuich
September 8, 2013 (BENTIU) – A Sudanese jet fighter has bombed a military barracks in South Sudan’s Unity state on Saturday, killing a South Sudanese army (SPLA) soldier and his wife.
- A photo taken on 17 April 2012 shows soldiers from South Sudan’s army (SPLA) pointing at a circling Antonov in Heglig (Photo Getty)
SPLA officials have blamed the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) for several recent provocative attacks inside their territory, despite peace effort by the African Union (AU)-led Joint Border Verification and Monitoring team (JBVMT).
Six other people, including a four-year-old girl, were reportedly injured in Saturday’s attack in Jau and are now seeking medical treatment in Rubkotna.
The unilateral attack followed bilateral talks between the leaders of Sudan and South Sudan in Khartoum last week, in which they expressed the need to strengthen relations between the two countries.
SPLA commander of Unity state’s fourth division, Major Gen. James Koang Chuol, confirmed on Sunday that a woman and her husband had died during the bombing of the SPLA military base in the Jau area.
He condemned the actions of the SAF, describing the attack, which occurred about 11:40am, as an unfortunate decision.
Koang said the incident was without provocation and occurred as high ranking officers from both countries were holding negotiations in the Unity capital, Bentiu.
The senior military officials from the SAF and SPLA general headquarters were reportedly sent to Jau to verify SAF claims that SPLA forces had failed to withdraw from the 10km buffer zone.
The team, who are still being hosted in Bentiu by the SPLA, travelled to the area by helicopter to investigate the claims.
Koang said the latest bombardments by the SAF are a betrayal of ongoing talks between leaders from both nations, as well as AU peace efforts in the region.
In Khartoum, the Sudanese army remained silent, and SAF spokesperson was not reachable to verify these claims.
In the past, the Sudanese army justified such air raids by saying that Sudanese rebel groups use the disputed border areas to prepare attacks on its troops. Some times also SAF said the bombing occurred inside the Sundanese territory.
In August, northern forces were accused of allegedly shooting SPLA soldiers on patrol along the disputed border area.
The clash reportedly occurred after SPLA forces witnessed their northern counterparts digging up more oil wells in Tachuin, resulting into unilateral fire exchange between the two armies.
There remains scepticism about the status and implementation of security agreements aimed at defusing tensions along the common border of both Sudan and South Sudan.
Heglig, which is located at 23 km from Unity state and lies near the border between the two countries, has been the scene of ongoing clashes.
Although the area is claimed by South Sudan, the AU mediation team has refused to recognise it as a disputed area.
In April 2012, the SPLA seized control of the oil-producing area, but withdrew its troops 10 days later amid fears of an all-out war between the two sides.
During the recent bilateral talks in Khartoum, South Sudanese president Salva Kiir and his Sudanese counterpart, Omer Hassan al-Bashir, reaffirmed their commitment to develop cross-border trading and continue oil flows from landlocked South Sudan to international markets via Sudanese pipelines.