JUBA, April 14, 2012 (AFP) – A Sudanese air raid on a border city in South Sudan killed five civilians Saturday, a local official said, as Juba’s army claimed to still be in control of the disputed oil hub of Heglig.
A Sudanese plane bombed Bentiu, capital of South Sudan’s oil-rich border state of Unity, leaving five people dead and six others wounded, state government spokesman Gideon Gatfan said.
“Five traders have been killed,” he told AFP. “The bomb fell next to a place where cars are being sold.
“We also found that six people were wounded including one woman and they are now admitted to Bentiu Hospital,” he said.
Gatfan said earlier that the raid had failed to destroy its target, a bridge linking Bentiu to a road leading to the border between Sudan and South Sudan some 60 kilometres (35 miles) to the north, the theatre of fierce clashes in recent days.
It was the second air raid reported by South Sudanese officials on Bentiu since Thursday.
The Sudanese military in Khartoum could not be reached for comment.
The South Sudan army claimed Saturday to still be in control of the oil hub of Heglig after Khartoum said it had launched an offensive to recapture the area seized by Juba’s forces on Tuesday.
Spokesman Philip Aguer told AFP the Southern army had repelled soldiers of the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) in the village of Kelet some 40 kilometres (25 miles) from Heglig on Friday and destroyed two tanks.
Aguer said Sudan’s air force had bombed the border areas of Jau and Panakuach in Unity State on Saturday, as well as Heglig.
On Friday, the SAF said they had launched a counter-attack towards Heglig and were close to the town.
Khartoum had vowed to react with “all means” against a three-pronged attack it said was launched by South Sudanese forces.
The United Nations said Saturday that some 10,000 people had fled fighting in Heglig even before the renewed clashes this week, the United Nations said on Saturday.
The UN’s Weekly Humanitarian Bulletin, citing the Sudanese Humanitarian Affairs Commission, said they had “scattered to various locations, including Heglig town and other areas further north.”
The latest Bulletin covered the period to April 8 after initial fighting began in late March.
Heglig is part of Sudan’s South Kordofan state, where the government is also fighting ethnic minority rebels.
The United States and the UN have called for aid access throughout the South Kordofan war zone to avert a humanitarian crisis. Sudan has cited security concerns in severely controlling access for foreign relief agencies.
Journalists are not allowed to report independently in the area.
The clashes are the worst since South Sudan’s independence from Sudan last July under a 2005 peace accord and have brought the two former foes the closest yet to a return to outright war.
Some two million people died in Sudan’s 22-year civil war, one of Africa’s longest, before the peace deal opened the way to South Sudan’s independence.