Last Updated: Wed Mar 02, 2011 12:46 pm (KSA) 09:46 am (GMT)

Rebel clashes reignite fears for Sudan's south

Rebels of the Sudan Liberation Army (SLA) ride at the back of a pick-up truck in al-Fasher (File)
Rebels of the Sudan Liberation Army (SLA) ride at the back of a pick-up truck in al-Fasher (File)

Renegade militia fighters clashed with south Sudan's army for a second time in three weeks, both sides said, reigniting fears for the stability of the oil-producing region in the countdown to its independence.

Rebel leader George Athor told Reuters just short of 100 people died in the latest fighting on Sunday in the south's Jonglei state -- where France's Total oil giant was due to start exploring. It was not possible to confirm the figures independently in the remote region.

"They attacked us early in the morning on Sunday. We dispersed the SPLA (southern army) forces and we captured a big number of arms. Also we managed to kill 86 soldiers. We lost 12 of our comrades," Athor said. The SPLA said fighting took place but did not release a death count.

The violence has cast a shadow over mass celebrations after southerners overwhelmingly voted to declare independence from the north in a referendum in January.

The referendum was promised in a 2005 peace deal that ended decades of civil war with the north, a conflict that also saw fighting between rival southern militias.

Athor was a senior member of the rebel southern army during the civil war. He stood for the governorship of Jonglei as an independent in last year's general elections and took to the bush after losing, accusing the SPLM of fraud.

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