July 4, 2013 (JUBA/BENTIU) – South Sudan on Thursday accused neighbouring Sudan of carrying out grounds and air attacks in its Upper Nile and Unity states, killing unknown numbers of civilians and wounding four government soldiers.
The attack comes just days after South Sudan vice-president, Riek Machar paid a high level visit to Khartoum in a bid to diffuse tension, over oil row, between the two nations.
The Sudanese government, Machar said, pledged its commitment to respect and implement the cooperation agreements, which the two neighbouring countries signed in Ethiopia, last year.
On Wednesday, a Sudanese jet attacked the Jau area of Unity state on July 3 seriously wounding at least seven people, a senior South Sudanese official told Sudan Tribune Thursday.
The jet, according to Unity State’s deputy governor, targeted a route used by refugees fleeing the conflict in Sudan’s South Kordofan state.
“They targeted a routes that is used by refugees when they are coming down from Nuba to Yida camp”, said Michael Chiengjiek Geay.
He described the attack as unfortunate considering that Machar, and his Sudanese counterpart Ali Osman Taha had met a week before to diffuse tensions between the two countries.
The deputy governor attributed the attack on South Sudan territory by Sudan on elements in Khartoum whom he said are unhappy with initiative between the two countries to peacefully address their grievances.
“Unfortunately there might be some elements within the system of Khartoum that are not happy with current initiative, different groups within the system that are so opposed to any peace and stability between Khartoum and Juba, that might be the group that is trying to provoke the government of South Sudan”, said Geay.
The central government in Juba had been informed of the attack and a meeting to discuss the incident and a possible response should have taken place on Thursday, he added.
Last week, South Sudan Vice president travelled to Khartoum and met his counterpart Taha.
The two discussed threats by the Sudan to block South Sudanese oil from passing through its territory. The Sudanese government has been accusing Juba of supporting rebels operating in South Kordofan and Blue Nile states, an allegation Unity state deputy governor denies.
“We in Unity state as the frontline state, we don’t support any of the rebels, operating deeply within Sudanese territory. Otherwise we are seeing these are scapegoats and they [Sudan] want to escape their internal problems and put the whole blame on us which we cannot accept”, said Geay.
Unity state’s Yida refugee camp is home to nearly 50,000 displaced Sudanese fleeing from the two-year-long conflict in South Kordofan.
In the past, however, Unity state government and the United Nations have warned refugees to move out from the area saying it is risky for their settlement because of its proximity to the international border.
South Sudan army (SPLA) spokesperson, Phillip Aguer, confirmed the attack, saying the Sudanese army (SAF) launched offensive attacks in its Upper Nile and Unity state locations.
“The division 17 of the Sudan Armed Forces in Senar had reinforced and launched attacked on Gong bar area north east of Renk County, Upper Nile state. They crossed deep into the SPLA position south of the area, wounding four SPLA soldiers and four civilians but they have been pushed away,” said Aguer, in a statement read on the state-owned SSTV.
The Sudanese army, he further said, also carried out another attack on the SPLA position on Jau, killing and wounding unidentified numbers of people in the area.
The attack, he stressed, was a violation of the security arrangements which the two sides signed as part of the 2012 September agreement, adding that the southern army was capable of defending its territorial integrity as well as lives and properties of its population.
“They (SAF) also attacked SPLA position south of Lake Jau in Unity state but they were defeated as usual and the SPLA forces on the ground have remained on high and maximum alert”, he said.
Aguer did not, however, disclose what on actions the army would take in response to Khartoum’s military aggression.
Meanwhile, Philip Jaden, Upper Nile state information minister equally confirmed the attack, but did not avail details of casualties involved.
“Yes there was an attack yesterday by the Sudan armed forces. They came from Senar, but the SPLA was able to repulse them from advancing further south which is a clear violation of the cooperation agreement”, Jaden said by phone from Malakal, the Upper Nile state capital.