Juba — South Sudan accused neighbouring Sudan of launching a fresh ground attack against its Northern Bahr el Ghazal State on Sunday, killing at least one civilian and wounding others just days after the two sides agreed to withdraw their troops from the tense, contested and heavily militarised border.
The attack forced civilians to flee the area, Aweil North County's commissioner and area representatives in the State Legislative Assembly said on Sunday.
Commissioner Kuol Athuai Hal said one civilian was killed when Sudanese armed forces, allied militia forces and armed Arabs tribes raided the area at dawn.
"The division commander Major General Santino Deng Wol was around when the incident took place. He went to the site and was actually the one who brought the wounded. He found one dead", Hal told Sudan Tribune from Gok Machar, the area's administrative headquarters.
Maj-Gen Wol confirmed the reports and said army remained committed to respecting the decision of the Southern government to pull their troops 10km from the disputed border within the specified time period.
"They came today. It was dawn attack on Riangkuel where our forces have been removed. We do not have presence in this area anymore. I found one civilian dead today during my visit. I also met with some civilians carrying the wounded whom we helped with transport," Wol told Sudan Tribune from Wunyiik, the headquarters of the South Sudanese army (SPLA) in the area.
Wol, who is the military officer responsible for the area did not say whether the army would retaliate or whether the SPLA would suspend their withdrawal plan from the area until a Joint Border Verification Monitoring Mission is deployed to ensure safety of the citizens along the border.
"The Sudanese armed forces have done it once again. They carried out another attack in areas where our forces have pulled out in compliance of the directive of the government to implement the [security] matrix", the head of information and public relations in the Northern Bahr el Ghazal State Legislative Assembly, Majang Ngor Kuany, told Sudan Tribune on Sunday.
Kuany asked the government to immediately take action against Sudanese government and take full responsibility to provide adequate and protection to civilians in areas where forces have been withdrawn.
"The government of Sudan is taking advantage of the withdrawal of troops from border areas. Our troops are withdrawing and they are deploying. This is what they are doing. The government of Sudan has never done what it says. What it says is not what it does. What happened today is exactly what has been the fear of our people", Kuany said on Sunday.
South Sudan's Information Minister, Barnaba Marial said he had heard of the incident but had not yet been received a full briefing from the army and state authorities and was still waiting for clear details before he makes any statement. The government's official spokesperson expressed Juba's commitment to implement the cooperation agreement with Sudan within the given timeframe to complete a withdrawal.
"We are committed to full implementation of the matrix. It is our hope that implementing it is in the best interest of the two nations. On our side, we have completed more than 90% of what is required of the government of the republic of South Sudan to do in this agreement. We have pulled out troops from all the border areas to allow creation and operationalisation of the buffer zones. The reported attack in Northern Bahr el Ghazal in which some lives have been lost took place in an area where our troops were deployed ahead. They were 35 miles away. This means that there are no longer there", Marial said in an interview with Sudan Tribune on Sunday.
Sudan Tribune was not able to independently verify reports of the new attack and the SPLA's spokesperson could not be reached for comment on Sunday evening. His deputy said that he had no details of the attack.
Aweil North's Commissioner Kuol Athuai Hal said that the security situation was "under control" by Sunday but remained "unpredictable".
"We have asked civilians to be calm. We know such killing pains not only the family members but also the government and will do the best to provide security and protection. We have informed our leadership. The office of the governor has been informed."