KHARTOUM, Sudan (AP) — Rebel shelling has killed five women and wounded more than 20 in the capital of South Kordofan state near the border with South Sudan, a military spokesman said Tuesday.
Sudanese military spokesman Col. Sawarmy Khalid told The Associated Press that rebel forces fired "about eight" shells six kilometers (3.5 miles) outside the border town of Kadugli Monday, killing the women.
It was the latest incident of violence that still plagues the region since South Sudan gained independence last year.
The rebels confirmed the attack but denied any casualties, saying in a statement released Tuesday that they had targeted "military installations" in the town in response to "extensive shelling" by government forces in areas of the state the rebels claim to control.
Sudan's state news agency quoted South Kordofan state governor Ahmed Haroun as accusing the South Sudan government of "being indirectly responsible" for the attack.
In South Kordofan, rebel fighters are battling troops from the Sudanese Armed Forces. Khartoum says the fighters — known as the as the Sudan People's Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N) — are backed by South Sudan, an accusation the Juba government denies.
Sawarmy charged that the rebel attack was intended to disrupt a peace conference in Kadugli. The rebels released a statement saying their attack was "a mere action of self-defense."
The violence has sent hundreds of thousands of civilians fleeing for safety since it erupted last year, shortly before South Sudan declared independence under a deal that ended decades of civil war.
Despite that accord and last year's peaceful split, violence still hangs over the border region.
Sudan and South Sudan signed a new peace deal under international pressure last month which allows for the resumption of oil exports from South Sudan. The two sides could not agree on a shared border or on how to address the disputed region of Abyei, which borders South Kordofan.
The United Nations Humanitarian Coordinator for Sudan condemned the "indiscriminate mortar attack," reporting that mortar rounds landed near the local office of the U.N. Children's Fund, or UNICEF, as well as near a school and a police station.
Associated Press writer Maggie Fick contributed reporting from Cairo.