* SPLA says Panakuach bombed by Sudanese war planes
* UN mission trying to secure release of arrested foreigners
By Yara Bayoumy
JUBA, April 30 (Reuters) - South Sudan said on Monday Sudanese war planes
bombed an oil region in the newly independent state, a day after Khartoum
declared a state of emergency in some border areas as tensions showed no
signs of abating.
Weeks of border fighting have raised fears Sudan and South Sudan could
return to all-out war, after failing to resolve a string of disputes over
oil revenues and border demarcation.
Philip Aguer, spokesman for South Sudan's army, the SPLA, said Sudanese
forces had bombed Panakuach in Unity State.
"There was bombing in Panakuach yesterday. Not less than four bombs were
dropped," Aguer said, adding there had been no reports of casualties.
There was no immediate comment from the Sudanese army.
South Sudan has accused Sudan of using its warplanes to bomb its
territories. Khartoum has denied it, though it has said it reserves the
right to use air strikes in self-defence.
Unity State has come under repeated bombardment over the past week, and an
air strike in its capital Bentiu last Monday killed two people.
Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir on Sunday declared a state of
emergency in some areas of South Kordofan, White Nile and Sinnar provinces
bordering South Sudan.
Meanwhile, Foreign Minister Ali Ahmed Karti said Sudan reserved the right to
deploy its forces along the border with South Sudan for legitimate
"This is within the borders of Sudan and not outside of Sudan and this is
our right, we can deploy our forces anywhere," he said in Moscow after
meeting his Russian counterpart.
"We're not at all preparing ourselves for war."
The former civil war foes also accuse each other of backing rebel militias.
Each side denies the other's allegations.
The spokesman for the Sudan People's Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N), a
rebel group that has been fighting the Sudanese army in South Kordofan and
Blue Nile states since last year, said the group had taken control of the
town of Talodi.
He said SPLM-N fighters had pushed out Sudanese forces from the town after
government forces killed three civilians in two separate bombings in other
areas, but Khartoum's army spokesman al-Sawarmi Khalid denied those
"The military forces did wide combing of the area outside Talodi and
succeeded in pushing backing SPLM-N forces," he told Reuters by telephone,
saying that was away from Talodi itself.
"There are no clashes inside Talodi and it is under full government control.
Any talk of SPLM forces being in Talodi is mere lies," Khalid said. "The
army did not bomb any civilians."
Further raising tensions was Sudan's arrest of a Briton, Norwegian and South
African who it said had illegally entered the disputed Heglig area to spy
for the SPLA.
South Sudanese officials have denied these allegations and said the men had
been working with United Nations and aid groups clearing mines and had got
lost in the remote territory.
The U.N. mission in South Sudan (UMISS) which said one of its officials had
been taken to Khartoum with the three other men, was trying to free the
"UNMISS has been in contact with the Sudanese authorities to try and secure
their release," said Josephine Guerrero, a spokeswoman for the mission.
The Sudanese foreign ministry said it had held discussions with the
ambassadors of the countries of those arrested. In a statement, it said it
told the ambassadors that the three were being investigated because they
entered Sudan illegally.
"They were in areas of military activity, they possessed military
equipment," the statement said, adding that the detainees were being treated
in accordance with the standards of international law and the investigation
would be speedy.
South Sudan seceded from Sudan in July, six months after a referendum agreed
under a 2005 peace deal that ended two decades of civil war which killed
more than 2 million people.
But distrust runs deep between the neighbours, who are at loggerheads over
the position of their border, how much the landlocked south should pay to
transport its oil through Sudan, the division of national debt and other
The African Union is pushing to bring both sides to the table, giving them
an ultimatum of three months to reach a deal. South Sudan has said it
accepts the African Union's seven-point plan, which calls for an immediate
cessation of hostilities.
The African Union said in a statement on Monday it looked forward to
receiving Sudan's formal acceptance of the road map so that steps can be
taken towards implementing it.
Russia said on Monday a draft U.N. Security Council resolution on Sudan and
South Sudan did not amount to a threat of sanctions but that "economic
measures" could be taken against the two countries if they failed to comply
with calls to stop hostilities. (Additional reporting by Khaled Abelaziz and
Ulf Laessing in Khartoum and Lidia Kelly in Moscow; Writing by Dina Zayed in
Cairo; Editing by Andrew Roche)
C Thomson Reuters 2012 All rights reserved
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Received on Mon Apr 30 2012 - 18:57:40 EDT