January 11, 2014 (KHARTOUM/JUBA) – The spokesperson for Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) announced on Saturday that they repulsed South Sudanese rebels who attempted to cross into their territory and refused to be disarmed.
- A South Sudan army soldier carries his weapon as he patrols a road near Bor Airport, 180 km (108 miles) northwest from capital Juba December 25, 2013 (Reuters/James Akena)
Al-Sawarmi Khaled told the official news agency (SUNA) that an infantry battalion of rebels loyal to South Sudan former vice-president Riek Machar penetrated inside the Sudanese territory not far from Heglig, after Friday’s recapture of Bentiu by the South Sudanese army.
SAF "dealt toughly with this [rebel] force. We disarmed 54 individuals and treated them as refugees while the rest of the force withdrew to South Sudan after it refused to disarm and it was expelled", he said in a brief statement.
Khaled further said, "We confirm that our territory is now free from any foreign troops, and that the international law is our reference to deal with any similar cases".
The Sudanese President Omer Al-Bashir was in Juba last Monday where he discussed with his South Sudanese counterpart Salva Kiir the deployment of a joint force on the border to prevent rebels from cross-border attacks.
South Sudanese foreign minister also visited Khartoum on Wednesday and handed a letter to Bashir, but no details were released about the military cooperation between the two sides as Khartoum denied reports about an agreement on the joint force.
Phillip Aguer, the spokesperson for South Sudan army (SPLA) confirmed reports from his Sudanese counterpart, saying they are still pursuing remnants of the rebel force.
"We have reports that some of those who fled towards to Sudan have reported themselves to Heglig. And we are told some have been disarmed by the Sudan Armed Forces. Other refused and retreated", he told Sudan Tribune Saturday.
Aguer said the Sudanese army had reported some of them in Karasana, about 30 kilometres north to Heglig, adding, “They reached there yesterday [Friday] evening”.
The military spokesperson could not, however, say whether the army through the office of the president would consider asking the Sudanese government to extradite the fugitive rebels.
"We do not have official report about the total number of those who have fled but the information has at the moment some of them run toward Sudan", Aguer said.
"There are reports that 90 oil technicians, 14 injured [rebels] and 30 civilians entered Heglig. Others went to Karasana”, he added.
The rebels spokesperson Peter Riek Gew dismissed statements of the Sudanese and South Sudanese military officials, which claimed they were scattered into Sudan territory.
"We have not crossed into Sudan, but our forces have surrounded Bentiu town where the government troops are in. It just matter of times you will hear Bentiu will fall on our hand again", Gew said on Saturday.