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New clashes in South Kordofan leave 19 dead, rebels say

December 12, 2011 (KHARTOUM) – Rebels fighting the Sudanese government in South Kordofan State have reported fresh clashes in which 19 people were killed on Saturday as Sudan’s army claimed it choked rebels’ supplies of arms.

Rebels from the Sudan People’s Liberation Army-North (SPLA-North) near Dalami, South Kordofan province, show off a rocket propelled grenade launcher they captured in a recent battle with the northern Sudan Armed Forces (Trevor Snapp - GlobalPost)

The spokesman of the rebels Sudan People’s Liberation Movement North (SPLM-N), Arnu Ngutulu Lodi, told AFP on Monday that heavy fighting erupted on Saturday when their forces repelled an attack by the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) in Warni, in the far east of Talodi locality.

“They left 19 bodies on the ground," Lodi said. According to the rebels’ spokesman, the clahes followed three days of fighting north of Al-Rashad locality where SPLM-N forces managed to expel SAF from Abu Al-Hassan area.

Lodi further said that fighting was raging in Taruje area near the borders with South Sudan where SPLM-N forces are closing in on SAF forces.

"The fighting now is going on in Taruje. There are heavy artillery bombardments. The SPLA has surround the SAF (Sudanese armed forces), who are under a lot of pressure. Any time now they will be driven out," he said.

South Kordofan’s fighting, which erupted since June, has intensified in recent weeks following the end of the rainy season. The conflict has pitted local groups aligned with South Sudan against the Sudanese government which moved to assert authority over its territories following the secession of South Sudan in July.

The Sudanese army also claimed it retook few areas that were under the control of the rebels.

Al-Sawarmi Khalid Saad, SAF’s official spokesman, on Monday said that the army had tightened its control over Alatmor and Buhyrat Al-Ubayd in order to interdict the supply of arms, food and logistics “coming from South Sudan.”

The army spokesman said in an interview with Sudan’s official news agency SUNA that SAF had managed to defeat South Sudan’s army SPLA’s 9th division in the disputed border area of Jau.

The armies of Sudan and South Sudan this week clashed for the first time since the latter’s independence in Jau, raising widespread concerns of a return to war between the separated countries.

Khartoum accuses Juba of supporting its erstwhile allies in South Kordofan, a charge the south denies.

On the other hand, Juba accuses Khartoum of supporting rebel groups on southern territories.

Al-Sawarmi denied that SAF was supporting the renegade southern general Gorge Athor, saying that the latter was fighting from within the south’s territories and there were no shared borders between his areas and those of SAF.