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Sudan Tribune

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South Sudan guns down Sudanese war plane, Khartoum denies

April 4, 2012 (JUBA/KHARTOUM) – South Sudan’s army said on Wednesday it has shot down a war plane belonging to the Sudan Armed Forces, but the latter denied Juba’s allegations.

A resident of Guit County, showing the crater from an Antonov bomb dropped by the Sudan Armed Forces in Manga village, Unity State, South Sudan, April 1, 2012 (ST)
A resident of Guit County, showing the crater from an Antonov bomb dropped by the Sudan Armed Forces in Manga village, Unity State, South Sudan, April 1, 2012 (ST)
“Our air defence has just brought down a MiG-29 jet fighter at Teshween [Unity state] today at 15.30 hours”, the country’s deputy defence minister, Majak D’ Agoot, told Sudan Tribune on Wednesday.

D’Agoot explained that the jet fighter was shot down by the country’s military – the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) – after SAF sent an “unmanned war plane” to photograph strategic SPLA positions on Wednesday.

Juba already accused SAF of carrying out bombing raids on Unity state on 1 April.

“The wreckages are now within the vicinity of where our forces are stationed inside territory of the Republic of South Sudan,” said D’ Agoot.

He said SAF carried out air attacks on Tuesday evening at about 10.00pm, injuring at least two civilians in Manga and Panakuach before it returned on Wednesday.

SPLA spokesman, Philip Aguer, also said South Sudan’s Air Defense Forces shot down a Sudanese MiG-29 jet fighter on Wednesday afternoon in South Sudan’s Unity state.

Aguer said he was present when the MiG was downed. He said it was one of a pair flying over the Naar and Toma oil fields and had dropped “many” bombs.

South Sudanese forces shot down the MiG with an anti-aircraft gun, he said. The Sudanese “don’t know that we have the capacity. They underestimate the SPLA,” said Aguer.

Juba and Khartoum are taking part in African Union High Level Implementation Panel negotiations on various issues, including border demarcation and the payment of oil transit fees, in Addis Ababa. These talks were postponed after the relationship between the two nations dramatically deteriorated on 26 March when the two armies clashed on the ill-defined border.

However, Sudan Armed Forces (SAF)’s spokesperson, al-Sawarmi Khaled denied that one of its warplanes was shot down describing the reports as “completely inaccurate”.

Sawarmi was speaking to the press after the return of the Sudanese delegation from Addis Ababa, as the talks over the security issues between the two countries ended without agreement.

The military official said SAF had shelled with artillery rebel positions in Unity State. Khartoum claims that the SPLA attack on the Heglig oil field last week was supported by Sudanese rebels who were part of the SPLA during the north-south civil war (1983-2005). Juba’s refusal to acknowledge that it backs the SPLA Northern Sector was one of the key reasons the AU talks stalled on Wednesday.

Sudan’s defence minister Abdel Rahim Hussein said Wednesday that they told the South Sudanese delegation that accords signed with Chad should serve as a reference for north-south security agreements. The Sudan-Chad deal in January 2010 stipulated that both nations stop their support to rebel groups based on the other side of the border and form a joint border force.

As well as Khartoum claiming Juba backs rebel groups in Darfur, Blue Nile and South Kordofan; South Sudan also accuses Khartoum of aiding rebels in its territory.

The president of South Sudan, Salva Kiir claimed that the SPLA’s attack on Heglig in Sudan’s South Kordofan State was a reaction to coordinated SAF aerial attacks on the Jau and Pan Akuach border areas followed by a ground forces assault against another area called Teshwin.

However, Khartoum asserts that the SPLA entered South Kordofan attacing Heglig triggering the fighting. In March Sudan called a mass mobilisation campaign of its main paramilitary group the Popular Defence Forces (PDF).

(ST)