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Heavy fighting erupts in Kersana between SAF and SPLA, Aguer says

April 14, 2012 (JUBA) – Heavy fighting is taking place between the South Sudan army, SPLA, and the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) in Kersana, another disputed area, said the South Sudan’s army spokesman, Philip Aguer.

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Philip Aguer (AP)

Aguer told the BBC that the fighting occurred in the border area of Kersana, which is 41km north of Heglig [or Panthou as it is known in South Sudan], which was captured on Tuesday by the SPLA.

The SPLA spokesperson denied reports that there was fighting on the outskirts of Heglig on Friday as it was stated by the Sudanese army on Friday.

He said no fighting has yet taken place around Heglig, but he however added that he expected more fighting on Saturday as the SPLA was advancing northwards and blocking all routes leading to Heglig.

He reaffirmed that the SPLA will soon take control of Kersana town, which South Sudan claims as within its borders, according to the 1956 border with Sudan. As per the Comprehensive Peace Agreement that ended Sudan’s second civil war the border of Sudan and South Sudan would be as it was left by the British at the point of Sudan’s independence.

However, by the time South Sudan separated from Sudan in July last year oil was discovered either side of the border, which has become contested in many areas between the two sides.

Aguer further said his government told the UN forces in Abyei not to allow SAF passage through the area, warning that if it did the SPLA would further advance into Abyei town itself.

Abyei, is a large oil-producing region claimed by both sides. It was due to hold a referendum to decide its fate in January but it did not go ahead over political differences.

Since May 2011 SAF have controlled the northern part of Abyei including Abyei town. A UN peacekeeping mission there UNISFA is supposed to be overseeing the demilitarisation of the area but a recent UN Security Council report said that both sides retained unauthorised forces there and called for their withdrawal.