Sudan accuses South and Darfur rebels over Abyei oil blast

Oil production facility in Paloch, S Sudan (5 May 2013) Oil is vital to the economies of both countries

Rebels based in South Sudan have attacked an oil pipeline in the disputed Abyei region, Khartoum says, amid worsening relations with its neighbour.

The fire in the Diffra oil field lasted for several hours before being extinguished, an army spokesman said.

The spokesman blamed the attack on rebels from Darfur, saying they had crossed the border from South Sudan.

Both rebels and the South have reportedly denied responsibility.

The accusations comes days after Sudan ordered oil companies to block South Sudan's oil from going through its pipelines to export terminals.

The blockade, which takes effect in 60 days, was imposed after Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir accused the South of backing rebels.

South Sudan denies the charges and in turn accuses Khartoum of supporting armed groups on its territory.

Relations have been fraught since South Sudan gained independence in 2011, taking with it some 75% of the former state's oil.

However, the South is landlocked and exports its oil through pipelines which run through Sudan.

'We want oil to flow'

Army spokesman Sawarmi Khaled Saad said the Justice and Equality Movement (Jem) from Darfur carried out the explosion in Diffra, after receiving "technical support from South Sudan's army".

Jem spokesperson Jibril Ibrahim Bilal denied the charges, according to the Sudan Tribune newspaper.

South Sudan also denied having any links to the blast.

"We cannot do that at a time when we want the oil to flow," foreign affairs spokesman Mawien Makol Arik told the Reuters news agency.

South Sudan gets about 98% of its revenue from its oil exports.

The flow of oil only resumed in April after production was stopped last year in a row over how much the South should pay Sudan for the use of its pipelines.

The loss of oil revenue hit both countries very hard.

On Monday, South Sudan's Information Minister Barnaba Marial Benjamin told the BBC that Sudanese troops had moved about 10km (six miles) into its territory.

Last year, the two countries appeared to be on the brink of war after Southern forces seized the Heglig oil field near Abyei before agreeing to withdraw.

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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