Sudan bombs disputed oil town, South Sudan says

Sun Apr 15, 2012 10:15am GMT

By Alexander Dziadosz and Ulf Laessing

KHARTOUM/JUBA (Reuters) - Sudanese warplanes bombed a disputed oil-producing border town seized by South Sudan this week, the southern state said on Saturday, in an escalation of border fighting that has edged the two countries closer to a full-blown war.

South Sudanese troops wrested control of the disputed Heglig oilfield from Sudan on Tuesday, prompting widespread condemnation from global powers and vows of retaliation from Khartoum.

The fighting has brought the former civil war foes closer to a resumption of full-blown conflict than at any time since the south seceded in July, and struck a blow to Sudan's already struggling economy.

The Sudanese army said it entered the Heglig region on Saturday and was fighting South Sudan's forces a few kilometers (miles) from the oilfield, which is vital to Sudan's economy because it produced about half of the country's 115,000 barrel-a-day crude oil output.

"We are now in Heglig region a few kilometers from Heglig town and oilfield," Sudan's military spokesman Al-Sawarmi Khalid told reporters in Khartoum, adding that fighting was continuing.

He said the Sudanese army's immediate aim was not to enter Heglig town but to destroy the South's "war machine."

But Juba - which says it will withdraw from Heglig only if the United Nations deploys forces to monitor a ceasefire - dismissed the claims as "wishful thinking" and said the South's army (SPLA) was still in control of the town.

"They are trying to convince their public they are making progress," South Sudan's military spokesman Philip Aguer said, estimating that Khartoum's forces were still at least 30 kilometres (19 miles) from Heglig town.   Continued...

A soldier wounded as South Sudan took control of the Heglig oil field, sits on a bed at a military hospital in Khartoum April 13, 2012.               REUTERS/ Stringer
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