KHARTOUM (Reuters) - At least 56 combatants were killed in clashes between militia fighters and soldiers in south Sudan's Upper Nile state just four months before the region is due to become independent, the army said Monday.
Militia fighters killed two southern government soldiers on Sunday morning and in an army counter-attack, 47 militiamen and seven soldiers were killed, southern army (SPLA) spokesman Philip Aguer said.
The south is expected to secede on July 9 after southerners overwhelmingly voted to declare independence from the north in a January referendum -- a vote promised in a 2005 peace accord that ended decades of civil war between north and south.
Aguer repeated accusations that Sudan's northern government was arming militias to try and disrupt the region and said there were signs that Khartoum-backed attacks were escalating.
No one was immediately available to comment from north's Sudan's dominant National Congress Party (NCP) which has dismissed similar accusations in the past.
(Reporting by Andrew Heavens; Editing by Angus MacSwan)