Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Khartoum Denies Southern Accusations of Airstrikes - (AFP)

Khartoum denies Southern accusations of airstrikes
Defense ministers later signs a security agreement ahead of secession in July
By Agence France Presse (AFP)

Thursday, March 24, 2011

JUBA, Sudan: Southern Sudan’s army Wednesday accused northern forces of bombing two sites south of their border, further escalating tensions as the South gears up for full independence.

But senior government officials from the North and South appeared to defuse the situation when they later agreed to continue talks aimed at resolving security issues prior to Southern secession in July.

“A [Northern] Sudanese Armed Forces Antonov airplane bombed two areas in the west of Raja county in Western Bahr al-Ghazal state Monday morning,” said Philip Aguer, spokesman for the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA). “People were very surprised, because there was no warning, but very fortunately there were no casualties.”

The Northern army spokesman dismissed the accusation as “completely false.” “We didn’t attack the area of Raja and there is no reason for us to do so,” said Sawarmi Khaled Saad.

Khartoum denies Southern accusations of airstrikesThe U.N. mission in Sudan said it was investigating the alleged attacks, which it was informed by the SPLA took place Monday and Tuesday in the areas of Sirka and Timsaha.

In a surprising show of cooperation after the SPLA’s complaint Wednesday, defense ministers from both sides later signed an accord on security as part of ongoing post-referendum discussions, and overseen by former South African president Thabo Mbeki.

Mbeki said he was “very pleased with the spirit of cooperation” at the talks in Juba between Sudan’s Defense Minister Abdelrahim Mohammad Hussein, and his Southern counterpart Nhial Deng Nhial.

But he cautioned that key issues still had to be resolved, including the future mandate of the U.N. peacekeeping force and the “definition of the security zone” along the North-South border.

The state where this week’s bombings were said to have occurred has a disputed border with the North’s war-torn Darfur region, where fighting continues between rebels and Khartoum.

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