Sudan army admits to losing an area in Blue Nile to SPLM-N rebels

February 20, 2013 (KHARTOUM) – The Sudanese army on Wednesday announced that it withdrew from an area it reclaimed this week in the Blue Nile state from the rebels belonging to the Sudan People Liberation Movement North (SPLM-N).

Army spokesperson Colonel Al-Sawarmi Khalid Sa’ad said in a statement that their troops "evacuated" the Mafo area after inflicting heavy losses on the rebels who attacked the area.

"Our troops fought for three hours during which the aggressor forces lost a large numbers of dead and our troops repulsed the attack three consecutive times, but the large numbers of attacking forces and the lack of ammunition led to the withdrawal of our forces back" Col. Sa’ad said.

He also accused South Sudan’s army of taking part in the fighting and claimed that "white mercenaries" were spotted in the SPLM-N ranks driving tanks and wearing bulletproof vests.

Col. Sa’ad said that the Sudanese army is working on recapturing Mafo and denied assertions by the SPLM-N that they are fighting for control of the strategic al-Kurmuk town on the Sudanese border with Ethiopia.

The SPLM-N spokesperson Arnu Ngutulu Lodi earlier said that it took control of al-Kurmuk airstrip and is fighting to prevail over the town.

The Blue Nile fighting, which broke out in September 2011, has caused the displacement of tens of thousands of civilians who have little or no access to humanitarian assistance.

Khartoum has been resisting international calls to allow aid agencies access to rebel held areas citing security issues.

The SPLM-N said that thousands more have fled the ground and aerial attacks by the Sudanese army since last week and renewed calls for a "humanitarian ceasefire" to deliver aid to the affected population.

The rebels in South Kordofan and Blue Nile - known as the SPLM-North - fought as part of the southern insurgent army during a civil war in Sudan that lasted from 1983 to 2005.

Khartoum accuses Juba of backing the rebels and has blocked the implementation of a number of deals they signed last year, including one on Southern oil exports, until the South severs its alleged ties with the group.

The government in Juba strongly denies that, saying it severed links with the insurgents when it gained independence, but the issue continues to strain relations between the nations.

The Sudanese government has so far refused to negotiate with the SPLM-N, fearing that it could be forced to accept wealth and power sharing arrangements similar to the ones included in the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) signed with the South.