Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir vowed on Monday not to negotiate with South Sudan after it occupied the oil-producing Heglig region.
“We will not negotiate with the South’s government, because they don’t understand anything but the language of the gun and ammunition,” he told Sudanese troops at a barracks near the oilfield along the contested border.
General Kamal Abdul Maarouf, a Sudanese army commander who led the battles in Heglig, said the army had killed 1,200 South Sudanese troops in fighting in the area, an account South Sudan denied.
Sudan carried out airstrikes on South Sudan on Monday, killing three people near an oil town, residents and military officials said, three days after South Sudan pulled out of a disputed oil field, as Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir visited the main oil region of Heglig.
A Reuters reporter at the scene, outside the oil town and Unity state capital Bentiu, said he saw a fighter aircraft drop two bombs near a river bridge between Bentiu and the neighboring town of Rubkona.
“I can see market stalls burning in Rubkona in the background and the body of a small child burning,” he said.
Mac Paul, deputy head of South Sudan’s military intelligence, said two Sudanese MiG-29s had dropped four bombs in the area. ‘This is a serious escalation and violation of the territory of South Sudan. It's a clear provocation,” Paul said.
Sudan denied it carried out the bombing.
“We have no relation to what happened in Unity state, and we absolutely did not bomb anywhere in South Sudan,” said Sudan’s military spokesman, al-Sawarmi Khalid.
The South Sudan armed forces have 10 helicopters but no fixed-wing aircraft except one Beech 1900 light transport aircraft.
Weeks of border fighting between the two neighbors have brought the former civil war foes closer to a full-blown war than at any time since the South seceded in July.
Meanwhile, other attacks by the Sudanese armed forces were also reported late on Sunday near Panakoc, which is 20 kilometers away from the border region of Heglig, Al Arabiya correspondent in Juba reported.
South Sudan’s Deputy Vice President Riak Machar condemned the attacks and urged the international community to convince the government of Khartoum to stop the attacks, the correspondent said.
Immediate tensions eased after the South said on Friday it would withdraw from Heglig, a disputed oil region which it had occupied and is central to Sudan’s economy, but the South has accused Khartoum of bombing its territory since then.
On Sunday Sudan denied the charges and said instead it had repulsed a “major” attack on a strategic border state town by rebels it says are backed by South Sudan.
President Bashir, meanwhile, arrived in the main oil region of Heglig on Monday, an AFP correspondent reported.
Bashir landed at about 0950 GMT, dressed in a military uniform, the correspondent said.
It is the president’s first visit to the area since he said of South Sudanese forces on Friday: “We beat them.”
While Sudan proclaimed victory, South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir had ordered earlier Friday the immediate withdrawal of his troops from the oil field seized on April 10.
More than 1,000 South Sudanese troops died during the battle for Sudan’s main oilfield of Heglig, the Sudanese armed forces commander said on Monday.
“The numbers of killed from SPLM are 1,200,” Kamal Marouf said during a visit to the town, from which Southern forces said they had completed a withdrawal on Sunday, according to AFP.
The countries are still at loggerheads over the demarcation of their shared border and other disputes have halted nearly all the oil production that underpins both economies.
South Sudan won its independence in a referendum that was promised in a 2005 peace accord that ended decades of civil war between Khartoum and the south. Religion, ethnicity and oil fuelled that conflict, which killed about 2 million people.
Recent tensions between Sudan and South Sudan have been fuelled by a dispute over how much the landlocked South should pay to export oil via Sudan.