Home | News    Thursday 30 November 2006

WRAPUP- Hundreds killed in south Sudan clashes

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Nov 30, 2006 (KHARTOUM) - Hundreds of people may have been killed in the heaviest fighting between Sudan’s former north-south foes since they signed a peace deal last year, a senior former rebel officer said on Thursday.

Terrified civilians in the southern town of Malakal reported looting and dead bodies in the streets after three days of clashes, and U.N. officials in New York said 240 civilian personnel had been temporarily evacuated from the town.

"More than hundreds have been lost. The Sudan army sustained very heavy casualties and civilians were caught in the crossfire," Elias Waya Nyipuocs, a senior officer in the former southern rebel Sudan People’s Liberation Army, told Reuters.

Nyipuocs said militias belonging to the northern Sudanese Armed Forces attacked the SPLA and the local commissioner of Malakal. The militiamen then took refuge in the SAF barracks near the airport and full combat began.

"We were forced to overrun the barracks and the SAF fought side by side with the militia against the SPLA," he said.

SAF tanks then counter-attacked and also shelled the town, inflicting many civilian casualties, Nyipuocs said.

A United Nations statement said fighting had subsided early on Thursday, but tension between armed groups in the town remained high and there was sporadic gunfire, looting of shops and violence against civilians.

It said U.N. staff had begun delivering medical aid to 300 to 400 civilians wounded during the fighting and would provide food, water and shelter materials to people who had fled.

U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan called the clashes "a serious violation" of the January 2005 deal which ended Africa’s longest civil war in south Sudan.

An emergency meeting of the north-south ceasefire commission condemned the violence and expressed "deep shock at the heavy loss of lives and property," the United Nations said in a statement.

BODIES IN THE STREETS

"I have lost two relatives and my neighbor lost her son," one resident told Reuters, declining to be named. He said dead bodies could be seen in the streets.

"People are desperate as the water was cut off and despite the gunfire they are still trying to go to the river to get water," he added.

South Sudan’s president Salva Kiir cut short his trip to South Africa and returned to Khartoum.

Around 10,000 U.N. peacekeepers are monitoring the 2005 agreement, which created separate north and south Sudan armies with joint units in major towns and an autonomous southern government.

It also shared power and wealth between the north and south, but implementation has been slow on key issues such as the demarcation of borders and ownership of the oil fields.

Malakal is the capital of the Upper Nile region, potentially one of the most oil-rich regions in Sudan, which produces at least 330,000 barrels per day of crude.

Sudan said on Thursday it was considering joining the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC).

Analysts said this was likely to give the country leverage in its confrontation with the United Nations over its refusal to let in U.N. peacekeepers to help halt the separate conflict in its western Darfur region.

Experts estimate 200,000 have been killed and 2.5 million forced from their homes in the Darfur conflict, which Washington has labeled genocide.

Khartoum says only 9,000 have died and denies genocide. Fighting has escalated in Darfur since a May peace deal signed by only one of three rebel negotiating factions.

The Sudan Liberation Movement (SLM) faction which did sign the deal accused the government on Thursday of delaying implementation of the accord and gave it two weeks to act or risk seeing the deal collapse.

In Geneva, the United Nations Human Rights Council agreed to hold a special session in December to probe rights violations in Darfur.

In Darfur’s western neighbor Chad, President Idriss Deby said he had accepted a U.N. proposal to deploy international peacekeepers on his side of the border to counter the spillover of violence from Darfur.

(Reuters)

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