May 2, 2011 (ABYEI) – The Administration of the contested region of Abyei on Monday accused members of Joint Integrated Unit (JIU) of the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) in the area of initiating fresh clashes in which eight soldiers have been confirmed dead.
Several others were equally reported to have sustained severe injuries in the fighting involving local police forces against some members of the Joint Integrated Units on Sunday 1 May, 2011.
This violence occurred following reports from officials in Abyei that armed elements identified by their military uniform as belonging to the Sudan Armed Forces, using heavy machine guns mounted on three pick-up vehicles, launched an attack on a local police post, on Saturday, killing one police officer and slightly injuring another in Damoloya, 12 miles north of Abyei town.
Several other foot soldiers were reported to have participated in the attack reportedly lasted after three hours.
Tensions are rapidly building up as forces loyal to the Sudan People’s Liberation Army, and the Sudan Armed Forces are reported to have established fortified camps close to each other in the area.
The clash follows a contentious statement by the Sudanese President, Omer Hassan Ahmed Al Bashir, at a gubernatorial rally, in south Kordodan town of Muglad in which he was quoted, on last Tuesday, as saying Abyei belongs to the north and will remain part of the north.
"Abyei is part of north Sudan and will remain of the north. We do not say this just here. We say it in many forums and occasions", said Sudanese President Al-Bashir in a live statement on National Omduran Radio on Wednesday.
Bashir also threatened to wage war if the SPLM attempt to annex Abyei to the South Sudan.
Acuil Akol Miyen, minister of finance in Abyei Administration, told Sudan Tribune, on Monday 2, 2011, that the fighting was triggered by SAF attempts of arms buildup in the area, without the knowledge of the local administration and United Nations.
"A fighting took place yesterday on Sunday 2, 2011 between Lenger (named in Arabic as Goli) and Todach over attempts made by Sudan Armed Forces component of the Joint Integrated Units in the area to beef up its military forces. The clashes occurred at around 4:00PM and continued until 6:30 PM between local police and Sudan Armed Forces component of the Joint Integrated Units", said Acuil on Monday.
The Satellite Sentinel Project (SSP) set up by movie star George Clooney released images last March confirming buildup of firepower by the armed forces from north and south Sudan in the volatile area.
"Northern-aligned troops appear to have constructed a forward operating base in the past two weeks at Bongo (...). The Bongo base is some 20 kilometers to the north of where SPLA-aligned forces appear to have trenched in at the razed villages of Todach and Tajalei," according to SSP analysis.
Minister Acuil said 2 policemen were killed and 4 others sustained injuries in the fighting while several dead bodies on the side of SAF were found left on the ground after the clash and local police seized weapons the northern troops wanted to take into the town.
"On our side, 2 policemen were lost in the fight and 4 others were injured but they inflicted heavy casualties on the attacking forces of the Sudan Armed Forces component of the Joint Integrated Unit, but they have taken the weapons. Six dead bodies were found left on the ground as several of them fled into the bush when they were engaged with the police forces in the fight", he further said.
He said more than six soldiers whose dead bodies were found might have been killed because the SPLA police were quick to realize the intention of the Sudanese forces.
"I believe more than just the six dead bodies might have been killed because the local police were quick to realize intention of the Sudan Armed Forces and chased them leaving behind weapons they wanted to bring into the town without the knowledge of the local administration and UN".
Acuil alleged that the SAF force in the joint units arranged to bring more weapons than their counterpart from the SPLA without the knowledge of the local administration and United Nations.
"The Sudan Armed Forces component of the Joint Integrated Units in Abyei has 15 heavy machine guns of 12.7 mm mounted on vehicles while Sudan People’s Liberation Army component of the joint Integrated Unit has only four machine guns. The SPLA forces are not equipped in equal number as they are supposed to have the same number of vehicles and weapons".
He also went to say that the SPLA according to a joint agreement, has to deploy more troops and weapons but due to logistical and administrative challenge, the central command of South Sudan army failed to do so up to date.
"So, in pursuit of the agreement, the SPLA command last week, instead of sending 11 machine guns, sent in only six machine guns and four other will arrive. But there is still a need for additional five machine guns," he said stressing that northern troops got more vehicle early this year.
The minister went to say that despite this clear difference in armament, the SAF still want to bring more weapons claiming that SPLA forces have brought in more military supplies. "This was why they want to bring in more weapons," Acuil said.
He also claimed that the northern troops attempted to increase their strength and brought more than 200 additional soldiers with in clear violations of the signed agreements.
Acuil accused Khartoum building up power fire to control Abyei in the future.
"This is the ploy but we know it", he said, adding that the over 3,000 troops which came to the oil producing region in early March, 2011 joined the fighting on Sunday.
Rahama Abdel Rahman Al Nur, deputy chief administrator reached by Sudan Tribune declined commenting on the incident saying the issue was still at the military level. "I cannot comment and cannot confirm anything because this is a military issue and it is still at the military level", he said.
Last January the South Sudan voted overwhelmingly in favor of secession from the north. But the two parties of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement failed to organize another referendum where Abyei people have to decide on whether they want to remain in north Sudan or join the independent South Sudan. The NCP and SPLM differ on who can participate in the vote. (ST)