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Wednesday, March 9, 2011     GET REAL

Khartoum-backed militias escalate fighting
as S. Sudan secession date nears

CAIRO — Southern Sudan has been torn by battles between its Army and militias supported by the Khartoum regime.


The Southern Sudanese Army reported at least 56 dead in clashes with militias in the Upper Nile State so far this month. The Army said the militias were being financed and directed by Khartoum ahead of plans for the secession of the south.

"They have received new weapons," Sudanese People's Liberation Army spokesman Philip Aguer said. "We suspect they all acted in coordination with Khartoum."

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In a briefing on March 7, Aguer reported battles between the Army and militia on March 6. He said 47 militia fighters from the Shiluk tribe and nine soldiers were killed.

In July, the south is scheduled to formally secede from Sudan. President Omar Bashir has pledged not to block the secession, but officials in the south asserted that his regime was directing an escalation, particularly in the oil-rich Abyei region.

"I think things are going to continue escalating," Aguer said.

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