Sudan rebels say shell army stronghold in oil state capital

KHARTOUM Tue Nov 6, 2012 6:48am EST

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KHARTOUM (Reuters) - Sudanese rebels said they had shelled the military's headquarters in the main city of the oil-producing South Kordofan state near the border with South Sudan after coming under air and ground attack.

Sudan's army has been fighting SPLM-North rebels in the state since June last year, shortly before South Sudan seceded from Sudan, but the South Kordofan capital Kadugli has been largely isolated from the fighting until the past month.

Khartoum accuses South Sudan of backing the rebels, an allegation Western diplomats find credible despite Juba's denials.

SPLM-North spokesman Arnu Lodi said rebels shelled the military's headquarters in Kadugli with mortars and other heavy weapons late on Monday in response to air strikes and ground attacks against their positions. Witnesses also reported shells falling in the city.

Sudan's military spokesman did not immediately respond to phone calls seeking comment. Events in Sudan's border states are hard to verify as the government rarely allows foreign media to travel there.

Fighting in the South Kordofan and Blue Nile border states has forced hundreds of thousands of people to flee their homes since it broke out last year.

Aid agencies have warned of a humanitarian crisis in the regions as food stocks dwindle.

Rebels have shelled Kadugli several times in the last month, including an attack during a visit by Sudan's defense minister.

South Sudan seceded from Sudan under a 2005 peace deal that ended decades of civil war. The Sudan People's Liberation Movement/Army North rebels fought as part of the southern rebel army during the war, but were left in Sudan by the partition.

The United States this month renewed sanctions on Sudan it has imposed since 1997, citing the conflicts in South Kordofan and Blue Nile.

(Reporting by Khalid Abdelaziz and Alexander Dziadosz; Writing by Alexander Dziadosz; Editing by Pravin Char)

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