More than 80 rebels killed in south Sudan: minister
JUBA, Sudan (Reuters) - More than 80 rebels were killed in clashes with the army in south Sudan, a government minister said Wednesday in the latest violence to mar preparations for the region's independence.
People from Sudan's oil-producing south overwhelmingly voted to secede in a referendum in January, promised in a 2005 peace deal that ended decades of civil war with the north.
Celebrations over the independence vote have been marred by a wave of tribal violence and clashes between the south's army and renegade militias.
Analysts warn that the underdeveloped south, due to split away in July, could become a failed state and destabilize the whole region if security deteriorates further.
Leaders from the south, where most follow Christian and traditional beliefs, have accused Khartoum of backing the rebels to disrupt the region and keep control of its oil.
The mostly Muslim north has dismissed this as have many of the militias who say they are rebelling against what they say is an autocratic government in the south.
The southern army (SPLA) started attacking a rebel militia led by former SPLA officer Peter Gadet in the south's oil-producing Unity state Sunday, the state's Information Minister Gideon Gatpan Thoar said.
"The SPLA attacked the rebels on the 8th and 9th (of May). On the first day 38 rebels were killed, on the second day 46. One SPLA soldier was killed," Thoar told Reuters.
"We have got rid of them (Gadet's forces). They have been running since yesterday," he added.
There was no immediate word from Gadet's rebels, and the figures could not be verified independently.
(Writing by Ulf Laessing, Editing by Andrew Heavens)
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