Africa

Sudan: SPLA accuses Khartoum of bombing Unity State

South Sudan army (file photo)
Image caption South Sudan's army was recently forced out of the disputed town of Abyei

Sudan's military has bombed a village in an oil-rich southern region, southern officials say, as tensions increase ahead of the south's independence next month.

Three people were killed in the raid on Unity State, in a move to take control of the region's oil fields, the south's military spokesman said.

Some 140,000 people have fled recent fighting along the border, the UN says.

Sudan's north-south conflict left some 1.5 million dead over two decades.

The war ended with a 2005 peace deal, under which the mainly Christian and animist south held a referendum in January on whether to secede from the largely Arabic-speaking, Muslim north.

Some 99% of voters opted for independence. President Omar al-Bashir said he would accept the verdict of the south, where most of Sudan's oil fields lie.

But last month, his forces seized the disputed town of Abyei. There have also been recent clashes in South Kordofan state, which is in the north but is home to many pro-south communities.

Aid agencies looted

South Sudan's military spokesman Philip Aguer told the AFP news agency that the bombing of Unity State was a move to seize the region's oil and said the south's military was boosting its defences.

"SAF [Sudan Armed Forces] aircraft bombed the area of Yau, in Unity state, many times on Thursday," he said, adding that the attacks had continued on Friday.

"This area is deep inside South Sudan and is a move by Khartoum to control the area and create a de facto border to control our oil fields."

However, a UN official said the bombing took place in a disputed area, where southern fighters had gathered, AFP reports.

The Khartoum-based military has not commented on the allegations.

The BBC's Peter Martell in South Sudan says the southern reaction suggests they are taking it very seriously indeed.

If the south's fears are proved right, our correspondent says it is a worrying development as it could trigger wider north-south clashes.

But he says it is also possible that it could be an extension of the fighting in South Kordofan, with the north bombing pro-southern fighters who had crossed into South Sudan.

Between 30,000 and 40,000 people have fled recent fighting just across the north-south border in South Kordofan, the UN says.

UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs spokeswoman Elisabeth Byrs said more half of the population of the South Kordofan capital, Kadugli, had left their homes.

She also said aid agency offices in the town had been looted and that many aid workers were among those who had fled, reports the AP news agency.

Map showing position of oilfileds in Sudan, source: Drilling info international

Both Sudan and the South are reliant on their oil revenues, which account for 98% of South Sudan's budget. But the two countries cannot agree how to divide the oil wealth of the former united state. Some 75% of the oil lies in the South but all the pipelines run north. It is feared that disputes over oil could lead the two neighbours to return to war.

Satellite image showing geography of Sudan, source: Nasa

Although they were united for many years, the two Sudans were always very different. The great divide is visible even from space, as this Nasa satellite image shows. The northern states are a blanket of desert, broken only by the fertile Nile corridor. South Sudan is covered by green swathes of grassland, swamps and tropical forest.

Map showing Ethnicity of Sudan, source:

Sudan's arid north is mainly home to Arabic-speaking Muslims. But in South Sudan there is no dominant culture. The Dinkas and the Nuers are the largest of more than 200 ethnic groups, each with its own languages and traditional beliefs, alongside Christianity and Islam.

Map showing infant Mortality in Sudan, source: Sudan household health survey 2006

The health inequalities in Sudan are illustrated by infant mortality rates. In South Sudan, one in 10 children die before their first birthday. Whereas in the more developed northern states, such as Gezira and White Nile, half of those children would be expected to survive.

Map showing percentage of households using improved water and sanitation in Sudan, source: Sudan household health survey 2006

The gulf in water resources between north and south is stark. In Khartoum, River Nile, and Gezira states, two-thirds of people have access to piped drinking water and pit latrines. In the south, boreholes and unprotected wells are the main drinking sources. More than 80% of southerners have no toilet facilities whatsoever.

Map showing percentage of who complete primary school education in Sudan, source: Sudan household health survey 2006

Throughout the two Sudans, access to primary school education is strongly linked to household earnings. In the poorest parts of the south, less than 1% of children finish primary school. Whereas in the wealthier north, up to 50% of children complete primary level education.

Map showing percentage of households with poor food consumption in Sudan, source: Sudan household health survey 2006

Conflict and poverty are the main causes of food insecurity in both countries. In Sudan, many of the residents of war-affected Darfur and the border states of Blue Nile and South Kordofan, depend on food aid. The UN said about 2.8m people in South Sudan would require food aid in 2013. The northern states tend to be wealthier, more urbanised and less reliant on agriculture.

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