Southern army calls raid Sudan's 'last attempt' to disrupt referendum
Tuesday, January 11, 2011 E-Mail this story Free Headline Alerts
CAIRO — Sudan's referendum has been disrupted by bloody clashes between Khartoum-backed troops and secession supporters.
Officials said forces aligned with the regime of Sudanese President Omar Bashir attacked a southern tribe in the disputed Abyei region. They said at least 23 people were killed in battles along the border of southern and northern Sudan.
"This is their last attempt to try to disrupt the voting process," Southern army spokesman Philip Aguer said. "But they will not succeed."
Aguer said the captured attackers, who clashed with a southern-backed militia in Unity state, claimed they had been financed and directed by the Bashir regime. He said Khartoum was sending arms and fighters to Unity and other areas of the south to provoke violence.
A Jan. 9 referendum to determine the fate of the oil-rich Abyei region was canceled. But a week-long referendum on whether the south would secede from the rest of Sudan has begun amid the violence.
"A large number of Misseriya attacked Maker village yesterday [Jan. 9] backed by government militia," Abyei administration speaker Charles Abyei said.
Officials said the northern-aligned attacks intensified on the eve of the Jan. 9 referendum. They said the Bashir regime sent weapons and trainers to direct Arab militias in the south in attacks that began on Jan. 7.
The United Nations, which has been supervising the referendum, has confirmed the Khartoum-directed offensive. UN monitors said the Bashir regime sent a militia to organize the Misseriya tribe to attack the village of Maker, about 25 kilometers north of Abyei.
Misseriya acknowledged the fighting and blamed southern forces for blocking the movement of northerners. The Khartoum regime has denied any involvement in the fighting.
Officials said the fighting between north and south was expected to intensify over the coming days. They said a soldier of the Khartoum army has been arrested in the southern Sudanese capital of Juba on charges of storing 700 AK-47 rounds.