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North Sudan 'declares war' on South after seizure of contested region

The occupation of the border town of Abyei by Northern forces has raised fears of re-igniting the civil war between north and south just months after the South voted to secede from the North in a referendum following two decades of war.

Both north and south claim the fertile region around Abyei which lies near several important oil fields.
Both north and south claim the fertile region around Abyei which lies near several important oil fields.
Image: via Google Maps

CIVIL WAR COULD be reignited in Sudan after Northern Sudan’s seizure of a contested border region was described as an act of war by a spokesman for the Southern Sudanese army.

It has raised fears that fighting over the town could re-ignite the civil war between north and south just months after the South voted to secede from the North in a referendum following a 20 year war.

Northern forces with tanks occupied the disputed town of Abyei on Saturday night, scattering southern troops that were there as part of a joint security unit, said Southern officials and a UN spokeswoman.

Both north and south claim the fertile region, which lies near several important oil fields.

Hollywood actor George Clooney set up a project to monitor the area by satellite, fearing it could be a flash point that could draw the region back into civil war.

The north’s seizure of the town follows several days of fighting and bombing and drew immediate condemnation from the US government.

Southern army spokesman Colonel Philip Aguer said

We didn’t declare war. The (Sudanese ruling party) National Congress Party and the Sudan Armed Forces declared war on us.

Southern Sudan fought the north for more than two decades in a brutal war that claimed more than 2 million lives.

A peace deal in 2005 offered the south the chance for independence and it overwhelmingly voted to secede in a January referendum.

It is due to become the world’s newest country in less than two months but the Abyei violence threatens to further destabilize an already volatile region.

The south is mainly animist and Christian and its people are linguistically and ethnically linked to sub-Saharan Africa.

The north is overwhelmingly Muslim and many members of the government consider themselves Arabs.

Most of Sudan’s oil is in the south but the pipeline needed to export it runs through northern territory to a northern-held port.

- AP

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Hugh O'Connell

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