Khartoum, Feb 15, 2016 (AFP) – Sudanese troops and rebels have clashed around an army base in the restive South Kordofan state, both sides said on Monday, but giving conflicting accounts of the fighting. The Sudan People’s Liberation Army-North has been battling President Omar al-Bashir’s troops in South Kordofan and Blue Nile since 2011, but there has been relatively little fighting there this year.
SPLA-N forces on Saturday “repulsed a convoy leaving Abry and heading to Lamray and pushed back the invading forces to the Abry garrison and entered its trenches and the fighting is still going on there,” rebel spokesman Arnu Lodi said in a statement.
Abry is a village south of the South Kordofan state capital of Kadugli where the Sudanese military has a base. Most of the territory around Abry is thought to be rebel-controlled. Lodi said the SPLA-N destroyed seven enemy land cruisers and killed 60 troops, losing seven of its own men.
Sudan’s army denied the claims, saying the SPLA-N had been shelling the Abray base for days. “The insurgents had been shelling the Abray site with artillery and Katyusha (rockets) for more than a week and some of them attacked the site and they were repulsed and pushed back,” spokesman Brigadier Ahmed Khalifa al-Shami told AFP on Monday. “We didn’t suffer any losses,” he said, adding that many SPLA-N troops had been killed.
Sudanese security forces rarely grant media access to South Kordofan, making it impossible to verify the often conflicting accounts from both sides. The SPLA-N launched its insurgency nearly five years ago, saying the two states were being marginalised. Until the Abry clashes there had been relatively few reports of fighting in the states so far this year, after Bashir gave a New Year’s Eve speech extending a ceasefire for a month in South Kordofan, Blue Nile and the western Darfur region, where rebels are fighting a separate insurgency.
There have been heavy clashes around Darfur’s Jebel Marra area in recent weeks, with tens of thousands of civilians thought to have fled their homes because of the violence. Bashir is wanted on war crimes charges by the International Criminal Court related to the Darfur conflict, which the UN says has caused more than 300,000 deaths since it started in 2003.
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