November 8, 2012 / 9:21 AM / 7 years ago

Sudan rebels say downed Antonov plane in oil state

KHARTOUM (Reuters) - Rebels in Sudan’s main oil state said on Thursday they had shot down a government Antonov military aircraft after it had bombed targets in the territory’s Nuba mountains area.

Sudan’s armed forces spokesman did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Insurgents from the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement North (SPLM-N) said in an emailed statement they had downed the aircraft around 5 p.m. (1400 GMT) on Wednesday in South Kordofan state’s Jau area, near the border with South Sudan.

It was not immediately possible to verify the claim. Sudan restricts journalists’ access to South Kordofan, where fighting between rebels and government forces broke out shortly before South Sudan seceded last year.

“Before it was downed, it (the Antonov) carried out air strikes on various areas in the Nuba mountains,” the SPLM-N statement said.

Rebels in South Kordofan fought alongside southern insurgents during decades of civil war fuelled by oil, ethnicity and religion. Their state was left inside Sudan when South Sudan declared independence under the 2005 peace deal that ended that conflict.

They say they are now fighting to protect their ethnic minority from persecution by Sudan’s government. Khartoum accuses them of trying to sow chaos at South Sudan’s behest.

Fighting in South Kordofan and Blue Nile, another state bordering South Sudan, has forced hundreds of thousands of people to flee their homes since last year. Aid agencies have warned of a humanitarian crisis in the region as food stocks dwindle.

The violence has also complicated talks between Sudan and South Sudan over oil, border security, debt and other issues left over from partition.

The rebels said they had also killed 10 government soldiers and destroyed four gun-mounted Landcruisers in an ambush on Wednesday morning between the villages of Hajar-Jawad and Angarko in the northern part of the state.

The SPLM-N said one of its fighters was killed and another two wounded in the assault.

Sudan’s 1983-2005 civil war killed an estimated 2 million people and devastated much of the country’s south.

Reporting by Alexander Dziadosz; Editing by Andrew Heavens

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