April 15, 2014 (KHARTOUM) – The spokesperson of the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF), Al-Sawarmi Khalid Saad, has dismissed claims South Sudanese rebels led by former vice-president Riek Machar are being trained at camps inside Sudan.
- Rebel fighters aligned with former vice-president Riek Machar march in a village inside rebel-controlled territory in South Sudan’s Upper Nile state on 9 February 2014 (Photo: Reuters)
In a statement released from Khartoum, Saad described the comments, attributed to the spokesman for the South Sudanese army (SPLA), Philip Aguer, as “false and unfounded”.
Saad was reacting to a report in the Londan-based Asharq Alawsat newspaper on Tuesday, in which Aguer said rebel troops that attacked Unity state capital Bentiu this week were trained inside Sudan.
“What we know now is that Machar forces received training inside Sudanese territory and under the supervision of the government army,” he said.
The South Sudanese government conceded on Tuesday that rebel forces are in full control of Bentiu and that its troops had withdrawn following heavy clashes which erupted over the weekend.
Aguer told Asharq Alawsat that South Sudanese rebels are present in the Heglig and Kharsana areas in West Kordofan state.
He said the SPLA would respond militarily, but it was up to the Juba administration to take appropriate political measures to address the issue.
However, Saad stressed Sudanese forces had no intention of interfering in the domestic affairs of its Southern neighbour, saying it would continue to maintain a neutral position on the conflict.
Earlier this month, South Sudan accused Sudan of attacking its oil-rich border regions where government forces loyal to president Salva Kiir are battling pro-Machar rebels.
In a report published in the Wall Street Journal, Aguer said Sudanese warplanes had carried out targeted bombing raids in Unity state
He also claimed Sudan is amassing ground troops in several disputed regions along the border, including Abyei, suggesting Khartoum was positioning itself to redraw the border by force.
The claims emerged a few days after Kiir paid a visit to Khartoum, where he met with his Sudanese counterpart, Omer Hassan al-Bashir to discuss security and border matters, as well as provide an update on the situation in South Sudan.
Saad said there is no basis for the allegations, which he said are an attempt by some circles to destabilise relations between the two countries.
He said SAF remained committed to providing protection to large numbers of South Sudanese refugees who crossed into the area between Heglig and Kharasana following the eruption of violence in mid-December last year.
He said refugees in the area were also receiving assistance from humanitarian aid organisations.
According to the UN refugee agency (UNHCR), more than 44,000 people have arrived in Sudan since the conflict erupted.