Sudan said it had arrested three foreigners on Saturday for illegally entering the disputed Heglig border area accompanied by a South Sudanese soldier. The British, Norwegian and South African nationals were accused of trying to help South Sudan.
REUTERS - Sudan said it had arrested a Briton, a Norwegian and a South African on Saturday, accusing them of illegally entering a disputed oil-producing border area to help its enemy South Sudan.
South Sudan’s army denied the foreigners were helping its forces and said the men had been on a U.N. vehicle that had got lost in the area.
Sudanese army spokesman al-Sawarmi Khalid said the foreigners had been arrested with a South Sudanese soldier in Heglig - the scene of recent fighting between Sudan and South Sudan - travelling in vehicles that contained military equipment.
“It is now confirmed without any doubt that South Sudan used the help of foreigners in their attack on Heglig. These foreigners were doing military work such as spying out the areas .... They had military equipment ... They have a military background,” Sawarmi said.
The group had been flown to Khartoum, he added.
A Reuters witness saw four men arriving on a civilian plane at Khartoum’s military airport.
One of the men, a Westerner, was wearing a t-shirt that said “Norwegian People’s Aid. Mine Action South Africa”. Reporters were not allowed to talk to the men who were swiftly driven away in an unmarked white van.
Norwegian People’s Aid South Sudan director Jan Ledang confirmed one of its staff members had been detained.
“We are trying to confirm the nationalities of the three and the aim and motivation of the three,” Norway’s ambassador to Sudan, Jens-Petter Kjemprud, told Reuters.
The United Nations mission in South Sudan said one of its officials had been taken to Khartoum with three other men, without going into further detail.
South Sudan’s army seized Heglig earlier this month but announced a withdrawal more than a week ago, bowing to pressure from the United Nations.
More than three weeks of border fighting between Sudan and South Sudan has brought the African neighbours close to an all-out war, nine months after the South declared independence from Sudan under a 2005 settlement.
South Sudan’s army spokesman Philip Aguer dismissed Sudan’s accusation that the men were working with his forces.
“That is rubbish and just a lie,” he said, adding that southern military forces told him a U.N. truck had got lost in the disputed border area and were “caught by the Sudanese Armed Forces”.
A British embassy official said the embassy was looking into the matter, while the South African embassy could not be immediately reached.
Date created : 2012-04-28