105 die in fighting between S. Sudan army, rebels
KAMPALA, Uganda — Two days of fighting in Southern Sudan between the region's army and a rebel faction killed 105 people, a southern army spokesman said Friday, in a reminder that violence can still explode in the volatile region despite its successful independence referendum.
A former high-ranking southern army member who had previously rebelled against the southern regional government attacked the towns of Fangak and Dor in the Upper Nile state on Wednesday, breaking a January cease-fire, said Col. Philip Aguer, the army spokesman.
Aguer said 105 people were killed in the two towns: 39 civilians, 24 southern police and soldiers, and 42 of rebel commander George Athor's men. AP attempted to reach Athor and his top aide for comment but the phone calls to the remote region did not go through.
The aid group Medecins Sans Frontieres said Friday it is treating dozens of wounded.
About 50 patients have been admitted to aid group's health facilities.
"We are mainly seeing patients with gunshot wounds, and many have significant abdominal and limb injuries," said Tim Baerwaldt, head of the group's mission in Southern Sudan.
Medical supplies and personnel have been flown to Malakal, the major town in Upper Nile state, the medical group said.
The violence comes the same week final results were announced from Southern Sudan's Jan. 9-15 independence referendum. Nearly 99 percent of ballots were cast for independence, setting the region on course to become the world's newest country in July.
The fresh fighting, though, is a reminder that renegade commanders abound in a region that suffered from two decades of war. The 1983-2005 north-south civil war killed more than 2 million people.
Athor's troops captured Fangak on Wednesday, and the fighting continued through Thursday until the southern military retook it, Aguer said. No new fighting was reported on Friday.
Lt. Gen. George Athor defected from his position in the southern army earlier this year to run for governor in Jonglei state, the largest and most volatile of the south's 10 states. After losing the April vote, Athor launched a revolt against the southern government along with an unknown number of his troops.
The revolt waged by Athor and several other dissident military figures represented a significant security threat as the country prepared for the January independence vote.
In September, Southern Sudan President Salva Kiir offered amnesty to Athor and several other men who had launched armed uprisings against his government. On Jan. 5, four days before the referendum, Athor signed a cease-fire with the army in what then appeared to end one of the largest security threats to the south.
"We were preparing for peace and we don't know why he is waging war at the time when war has ended in Sudan," Aguer said. "Meanwhile we still maintain the spirit of reconciliation because the amnesty is still holding. So if Athor stops fighting we will welcome him for reconciliation."
A U.N. spokesman, Kouider Zerrouk, said Friday that the U.N. mission in Sudan "is very concerned about the renewed fighting ... and the resulting civilian casualties."
U.N. leaders have engaged both sides and are urging an immediate end to the attacks, Zerrouk said.
Last week in Upper Nile state, which borders Jonglei, more than 60 southern soldiers who are members of the northern Sudanese army died in a mutiny related to the imminent breakup of the country.
Ongoing insecurity, the widespread presence of small arms, and severe underdevelopment due to decades of civil war are just some of the problems that Southern Sudan faced in the run-up to its independence declaration.