Khartoum (Sudan): Clashes between the
southern army and a rebel militia group in south Sudan`s Upper
Nile state have left more than 40 people dead, including seven
soldiers, southern army spokesman Philip Aguer said on Monday.
"There was fighting on Sunday between the SPLA and a
former militia group under Ulony, a militia commander who had
been in the service of Khartoum for a long time," the
spokesman for the Sudan People`s Liberation Army said.
The militiamen attacked a group of SPLA soldiers who had
gone to the market in Owach, a town west of Upper Nile`s state
capital Malakal, killing one and wounding one, Aguer said.
"After that incident, the SPLA attacked their camp at
around 12:00 pm, and fighting took place in which 37 of
Ulony`s men and seven SPLA soldiers were killed, including the
one that died earlier," he said, adding that another 28
soldiers were wounded.
Sources in Malakal confirmed that there had been fighting
in Owach, but disputed the casualty figure given by Aguer.
"It`s not as high as 40. I think between 13 and 15 people
were killed altogether," said Susan Oyach, an assistant in the
Upper Nile governor`s office, adding that the situation was
Aguer said the army had recovered 37 AK-47 assault
rifles, which had "definitely" been supplied by the north.
Northern army officials were not available to respond to
The SPLA spokesman said yesterday`s attack came despite
the southern government allowing Ulony`s group to join the
army as part of president Salva Kiir`s amnesty offer to rebel
fighters in October.
Relations between north and south Sudan seemed to have
improved during January`s referendum on southern independence,
but a string of deadly attacks by rebel militias in Upper Nile
and neighbouring Jonglei state since last month has sparked a
war of words between the two sides.
In the worst incident, more than 200 people died in an
attack on SPLA soldiers by troops loyal to renegade southern
general George Athor in northern Jonglei on February 9.
Juba has accused the rebels of acting on behalf of
Khartoum in an attempt to destabilise the south, a charge
northern officials have denied.
During the devastating 1983-2005 civil war between north
and south Sudan, Khartoum armed militias among southern ethnic
groups opposed to the southern Sudan People`s Liberation
Movement, which has repeatedly accused the northern
authorities of maintaining the policy in a bid to destabilise
Khartoum has in turn accused the southern authorities of
backing rebel groups in the western region of Darfur,
something they deny.