Juba — The South Sudanese military has accused the army of neighbouring Sudan on Thursday of amassing troops along their disputed border, moving closer to their positions, and bombing the southern state of Northern Bahr el Ghazal for three consecutive days.
An old man wounded on 20 November after the bombing of Gokmachar on 21 November (Source: office of Aweil North County Commissioner)
South Sudan's army (SPLA) says that five people died and many others were injured in the Kiir Adem area of Northern Bahr el Ghazal when the bombing campaign began on Tuesday. But this figure has been revised up to seven by local officials.
However, on Wednesday the spokesperson of the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF), Al-Sawarmi Khaled Sa'ad, denied bombing South Sudan but said that its air force had bombed rebel groups recently based north to the contested Mile 14 area, which he maintained were being backed by Juba.
"Sudan is amassing troops again along the border areas. They have started these activities in Jau. They have been bombing Kiir adem and Kiirkou payam in Aweil North County in Northern Bahr el Ghazal for the last three days," said Colonel Phillip Aguer, SPLA spokesperson.
"They have started moving towards SPLA positions in Balbala in Raja County in Western Bahr el Ghazal. Their intention is border incursion again," he further said in statement broadcast by South Sudan Radio and Television on Thursday.
Kuol Athuai Hal, the Commissioner of Aweil North, said Sudanese warplanes have bombed his county continuously since Tuesday, killing a total of seven people and wounding eight others.
"They are dropping bombing as I am talking to you. The one you hear is the sound of Antinov. Two Antinov are dropping bombs on innocent civilians," Hal told Sudan Tribune on Thursday.
Commissioner Hal said it was not clear if more people had been hurt or killed in Thursday's air attack.
"These unprovoked air attacks led to loss of seven innocent lives and wounding of eight others on the first day alone."
The attacks, Hal said, showed that "Khartoum cannot be trusted. The government of Sudan says one thing and does another. What they say is not they do and what they do is not what they say. They are never honest," he said.
The two sides signed a deal in September to resolves many of the issues that arose from South Sudan's secession last year, which if implemented would see the South Sudanese oil pumped through Sudan for international export for the first time since January.
The resumption of oil exports is much needed for both economies but has been delayed since November 15 over Khartoum's insistence that the security aspects of the Cooperation Agreement - creating a demilitarised buffer zone and the de-linking of Sudanese rebels from Juba - must be implemented first.
Officials from the both sides are said to be in contact over the security arrangements but the latest border tension is likely to further sour relations.
Mel Wal Achien, a member of South Sudan's parliament who represents Aweil North also said that said Sudanese jet fighters have been bombing the area since Tuesday, resulting in a huge displacement of the civil population.
He wondered why none of the international community including United Nations has been able to condemn activities by the Sudanese armed forces. So far the UN Mission in South Sudan has not commented on the incident.
"Khartoum has decided to openly violate the September agreement by carrying out unprovoked aerial bombardment. It has been bombing the area since Tuesday it is surprising that no Member State of AU and UN has bothered to condemn Sudan Government for its unwarranted aggression against the Republic of South Sudan. Not even a message of condolences to the people whose immediate relatives have been killed after three consecutive days of bombardment," said Achien in an interview with Sudan Tribune on Thursday.
A former Commissioner of Aweil North, said on Thursday that South Sudan will have to considering a military response if the aerial bombardments Northern Bahr el Ghazal State continues.
"If the Sudanese Armed [Forces] continues to bomb our civilian settlements and killing them, the SPLA might be forced to react and hit back. This is in their mandate. They are constitutionally mandated to protect citizens of South Sudan and their properties against foreign aggression," said Deng Thiep Akok on Thursday.
Akok claimed that the government in Khartoum wants to divert attention of the Sudanese people from economic hardship by waging war against the people of the South to get national support in the event that the SPLA respond.
Referring to reports that Sudan's former spy chief and others were arrested in Khartoum earlier on Thursday morning, Akok added: "The people are completely frustrated with the system and this is why there have been attempts to topple the government. Senior military officers on top of them Salah Gosh have been arrested."
"These are the issues which NCP is trying to divert attentions of the Sudanese people by these attacks," Akok said.
The senior member of South Sudan's governing Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM) said another tactic of the attack is an attempt put pressure on the government to sever ties with Sudanese Rebels, particularly SPLM-N which Khartoum claims is supports by Juba.