Sudanese army takes rebel stronghold
Sudan’s armed forces seized the rebel stronghold of Kurmuk in Blue Nile border state Thursday, after two months of fighting insurgents the government has accused South Sudan’s ruling party of supporting. South Sudan denies the charge.
REUTERS - Sudanese armed forces seized the rebel stronghold of Kurmuk in Blue Nile border state after two months of fighting, the government and rebels said on Thursday.
The Sudanese army has been fighting rebels of the SPLM-North in Blue Nile bordering newly independent South Sudan. Violence also erupted in the neighbouring northern border state of South Kordofan in June.
Khartoum accuses South Sudan, with which before the south's independence it fought a lengthy civil war, of backing the northern wing of the SPLM. The SPLM is South Sudan's ruling party. South Sudan has denied the charges.
"Our troops entered the town of Kurmuk, expelled the insurgents and killed and wounded many (of them) and they are now cleansing the town," the Sudanese defence ministry said on its website.
A spokesman for SPLM-North in Blue Nile confirmed rebels had withdrawn from Kurmuk, which had been the main stronghold of SPLM-North since fighting broke out.
"The SPLM troops have withdrawn from Kurmuk for strategic reasons. The Sudanese army controls Kurmuk but this is not the end of the war in Blue Nile," said Sulaiman Othman, a spokesman for SPLM-North in Blue Nile.
Four months after South Sudan gained independence from Sudan, fighting in areas near the border has complicated talks over unresolved issues such as how to manage the formerly integrated oil industry.
Blue Nile and South Kordofan are north of the new border and remain part of Sudan, but are home to rebels who sided with the south during the civil war, which ended with a peace agreement that led to independence for South Sudan this year.
Rebels in those states say they have been politically and economically marginalised by Sudan's government. Khartoum accuses the insurgents of trying to spread chaos and says it will not tolerate armed militias on its side of the border.
South Sudan seceded after voting for independence in a January referendum promised in the 2005 peace deal that ended one of Africa's longest and deadliest civil wars.