, JUBA, Mar 28 – Sudanese warplanes bombed oil rich border regions of South Sudan overnight after days of clashes, but fighting on the ground between the rival armies has ceased, a Southern official said Wednesday.
“The ground assaults this morning have stopped but they (Sudan) have still been bombing us in the night,” said Gideon Gatpan, information minister for the South’s Unity state, the scene of the attack.
“There was bombing in Panakwach, 35 kilometres (22 miles) from Bentiu,” the state capital, Gatpan said, adding that he not received reports of any casualties from the raid.
“There are still tensions and soldiers are preparing in case of fresh assault — we are expecting more bombing,” Gatpan told AFP.
Sudanese warplanes on Monday launched air raids on newly independent South Sudan, while the rival armies clashed in reported heavy battles in contested border areas. Both sides claim each other started the fighting.
The African Union and the UN Security Council called have called for an end to the violence, while US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Khartoum bore the responsibility for the renewed hostilities.
The unrest jeopardises efforts to resolved contentious border and oil disputes that have ratcheted up tensions between Juba and Khartoum.
Juba said northern bombers and ground troops had struck first on Monday, moving into Unity State before Juba’s troops fought back and took the Heglig oil field, parts of which are claimed by both countries.
The Sudanese army said calm had returned on Tuesday and northern troops were “fully in control of the Heglig area”.
However Gatpan could not confirm if Southern troops had pulled out of Heglig, saying he was still waiting for military reports from the frontline.
Both Heglig and the area hit by air strikes are run by the Greater Nile Petroleum Operating Company (GNPOC), a consortium led by China’s state oil giant CNPC.
The African Union said Wednesday it was deeply concerned at an “escalating security situation” on the border between the former civil war foes, and called for a troop pullout from border zones.
The AU has been mediating talks between the rivals to resolve contentious issues following South Sudan’s independence last July — including demarcating the frontier and oil pipeline transit fees.
Over two million people died in Sudan’s 1983-2005 civil war between Khartoum and southern rebels before a peace agreement which led to South Sudan’s independence.[cresta-social-share]