Fighting in Sudan border states kills 600: minister

KHARTOUM Tue Oct 16, 2012 5:29pm EDT

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KHARTOUM (Reuters) - More than 600 people have been killed in insurgencies that erupted in two Sudanese states bordering South Sudan last year, Sudan's interior minister said on Tuesday in the first official count.

Fighting between Sudan's army and SPLM-North rebels broke out in the oil-producing state of South Kordofan in June 2011, shortly before South Sudan became independent.

Violence then spread in September 2011 to nearby Blue Nile state which also borders the new African republic.

The fighting has forced more than half a million people to flee and stoked tensions between Sudan and South Sudan, former enemies in a civil war that was fueled by oil, ethnicity and religion.

Khartoum accuses South Sudan of backing the Sudan People's Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-North), charges dismissed by the South's government.

A total of 633 people have been killed in both states since last year, Interior Minister Ibrahim Mahmoud told parliament. Most of the dead were civilians, the rest government soldiers, he said, without giving an estimate of rebel casualties.

Since the start of the year, 147 people have been killed in South Kordofan and 41 in Blue Nile state, he said.

A total of 791 people have been wounded since last year in South Kordofan, and 151 people were missing there, he added.

South Sudan declared independence from Sudan in July last year, under the terms of the 2005 peace deal that ended their civil war. But the two countries have still not agreed on the ownership of a number of disputed territories and their armies have clashed a number of times across the border since the secession.

They agreed to set up a buffer zone along their shared boundary last month after coming under international pressure to end the violence.

But there has been scant progress in parallel indirect talks between Khartoum and SPLM-North, which fought as part of the southern rebel army during the civil war.

SPLM-North, which accuses the government of marginalizing large parts of South Kordofan and other border areas, has formed an alliance with other rebel groups to try and topple the country's veteran President Omar Hassan al-Bashir.

(Reporting by Khalid Abdelaziz; Writing by Ulf Laessing; Editing by Andrew Heavens)

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