The United Nations on Friday said that the North Sudan’s Armed Forces (SAF) shelling in the North-South border region of Abyei hit near a base that belongs to the United Nations Mission in Sudan (UNMIS).
“[I]n Abyei, this afternoon, local time, the UN Mission in Sudan (UNMIS) confirms that six shells fired by the Sudanese Armed Forces landed 150 meters from a UN Mission base near Agok. There are no reports of casualties at this point. And we are in the process of verifying the details on that,” UN spokesperson Martin Nesirky told reporters in New York.
Agok is at 20 miles southwest from the oil-rich region of Abyei. The latter was seized by SAF on May 21st.
” There are no reports of casualties at this point. And we are in the process of verifying the details on that. The Sudanese Armed Forces are saying that this shelling was part of an exercise; the Sudan People’s Liberation Army is saying that the shelling was targeting their positions and intimidating the local population around Agok. So it remains to be determined precisely what happened. But it is a fact that the shells landed very close to the base,” Nesirky added.
A humanitarian official confirmed the report.
“This morning, from about 10 am, there was shelling on both sides of the river. Later there was shelling just a little bit north of Agok … All humanitarians are being pulled out of Agok,” the official, who asked not to be named said.
After the seizure of Abyei on 21 May, SAF destroyed the only bridge linking by road between Abyei and Agok on the southern bank of Kiir river. The gesture was seen in Juba as a sign that northern troops have intention to move southward.
The incident is the latest in the series of Attacks that followed the SAF takeover. On Wednesday the SPLA said that clashes occurred near the Kiir river. But SAF denied the allegation saying that Southern troops were fighting rebel militias.
Today, the Southern army accused SAF of attempting an incursion.
“This morning we received a report that the SAF were trying to move southwards into Warrap state,” in south Sudan, SPLA spokesman Philip Aguer have said.
“There was fighting between Abyei and Agok …..But our forces repelled them and drove them back towards Abyei,” he said, adding that the northern army had deployed all along the north-south border.
The status of Abyei was supposed to be determined through a referendum that was to be held in January but disagreement on who is eligible to vote stalled the process.
Observers say that Abyei could be the ‘Kashmir’ of Sudan. The South will officially become a new state on July 9th.
North-South talks are ongoing in Addis Ababa seeking a withdrawal of SAF from Abyei and deploying Ethiopian peacekeepers there.
Fighting has also erupted in South Kordofan between SAF and SPLA where the Northern army used warplanes to bomb civilians in what it described as rebellion.