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South says six wounded in Sudan army attack

by Staff Writers
Khartoum (AFP) Nov 24, 2010
Southern forces accused Sudan's army of attacking its positions on Wednesday and wounding four soldiers and two civilians, as part of efforts to disrupt the south's independence referendum.

"An SAF (Sudan Armed Forces) helicopter gunship attacked SPLA positions at Kiirabem, in North Bahr al-Ghazal, wounding four SPLA soldiers and two civilians," said Philip Aguer, spokesman for the ex-rebel Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLM).

"The intention of the SAF in this move is to try to disrupt the referendum process," Aguer added in a statement.

The Sudanese military, meanwhile, denied having launched an attack on southern positions. "This is completely false," army spokesman Sawarmi Khaled Saad told AFP.

A senior United Nations official, contacted by AFP, said the UN peacekeeping force in Sudan was not able to confirm the reported bombing.

The exact demarcation of the border between north and south Sudan is still a divisive issue, at times triggering light clashes between the Sudanese army and SPLM.

The two armies stressed less than two weeks ago that they were committed not to return to war regardless of the outcome of the January 9 referendum, which many expect will lead to independence for the south.

But clashes between the two sides broke out shortly afterwards close to the war-torn western region of Darfur, with the army then accusing the southern armed forces of aiding Darfuri rebels.

The southern North Bahr al-Ghazal state neighbours Darfur, where the United Nations says 300,000 have died in the conflict over the past seven years. The government says the figure is only 10,000.

"All these open provocations and violations of SAF are deliberately designed to drag Sudan back to war, to justify the impossibility of conducting the referendum in the south and in Abyei," the SPLA spokesman said.

Another referendum is due the same day in the oil-rich Abyei border region, with voters there choosing whether to stay with the north or go with the south.

"The SPLA reaffirms its unwavering commitment to the Comprehensive Peace Agreement and the permanent ceasefire," he added, referring to the accord signed in 2005 that ended a 22-year war between north and south Sudan.

Registration for the January referendum is currently taking place at nearly 3,000 sites across the north and south of Sudan, as well as in eight other countries including Egypt, Kenya, Britain and the United States.

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