June 8, 2011 (KHARTOUM) – Fighting in Sudan’s flashpoint state of South Kordofan has rumbled on for the third consecutive day, forcing the UN to suspend operations and sparking both domestic and international concerns.
Meanwhile, tension has been exacerbated after a local official of north Sudan’s ruling National Congress Party (NCP) was assassinated on Monday amid reports that hundreds of people have fled fighting in the state’s town of Kadugli.
The UN Mission in Sudan (UNMIS) on Tuesday reported that six people were killed in Kadugli as a result of clashes between elements of north Sudan army, Sudan Armed Forces (SAF), and those of the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA), the military wing of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM), which controls South Sudan.
"There has been continued gunshots heard in the town itself today... The fighting is between elements from the SAF and the SPLA," AFP cited Hua Jiang, spokeswoman for the United Nations Mission in Sudan (UNMIS), as saying.
According to the UN official, they saw six dead bodies at the hospitals they visited, four of them were of government police and the other two are civilians.
She also said that they saw about 3,000 people taking refuge at the Kadugli police hospital.
Fighting in South Kordofan, one of Sudan’s heavily militarized zone, erupted on Sunday after SAF tanks rolled into the center of Kadugli town after unidentified gunmen reportedly attacked a police station in the area and stole a stash of weapons.
The oil-producing state has been in a state of tension since the result of its legislative and gubernatorial elections was declared in May, awarding the state’s governorship to the NCP’s candidate Ahmad Haroun over the SPLM’s candidate Abdul Aziz Adam al-Hilu whose party rejected the results alleging fraud.
Meanwhile, sources have told Sudan Tribune that UN agencies had suspended their operations in Kadugli and evacuated a large of number of its staff from the city center.
The same sources also reported that unidentified gunmen had ransacked one of the SPLM new offices in Kadugli and robbed all the furniture therein. The sources went on to say that the city’s streets were rife with vehicles laden with heavy weapons and that members of regular forces were rushing to stop any person suspected of being involved in the clashes.
Sudan Tribune’s sources also said that the chairman of the NCP’s branch in South Kordofan’s locality of Buram, Kabti Kuku, was shot dead by unidentified gunmen at his house on Monday evening.
The head of the NCP’s sector in South Kordofan, Jalal Taor, told Sudan’s official news agency SUNA on Tuesday that the situation was currently bad after all markets in Kadugli closed down and residents stayed indoors. However, he later added that the situation improved on Tuesday despite the fact that gunshots were heard in the morning.
South Kordofan’s fighting has also sparked concerns by Sudan’s opposition forces and the US state department, with both calling for immediate cessation of hostilities.
In a press release issued on Tuesday, the coalition of mainstream opposition parties in north Sudan expressed concern over continuation of the fighting and deteriorating humanitarian conditions in the state.
The opposition coalition called for “immediate stoppage of the fighting and the exercise of self-restrain by all sides.”
“All political forces call on the NCP to respond immediately to the demand for cease-fire,” the release said.
US State Department spokesman Mark Toner on Tuesday told reporters that Washington was “deeply troubled” by reports of violence in South Kordofan.
"Unilateral military actions that prejudice the outcome of negotiations on future political and security arrangements for Southern Kordofan and neighbouring Blue Nile state must cease immediately."