U.N. says 73,000 flee Sudan border state fighting

Reuters News
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Posted: Jun 22, 2011 6:31 PM
U.N. says 73,000 flee Sudan border state fighting

KHARTOUM (Reuters) - The United Nations said on Wednesday 73,000 people had fled violence in Sudan's Southern Kordofan border state, after more than two weeks of fighting between the northern army and southern-aligned troops.

Sudan's south will become an independent country on July 9, but fighting along the ill-defined border has raised tension ahead of the split. North and south have yet to resolve issues like how to manage the oil industry and divide debt.

Fighting broke out in earnest on June 5 in Southern Kordofan -- a northern oil state that borders the south -- and has escalated to include artillery and warplanes as the north has tried to crush what it calls an armed rebellion.

The U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said the state capital of Kadugli and the surrounding area "had generally been calm" from Sunday through Tuesday, although some smaller clashes were reported across the state.

"At least 73,000 people were initially displaced throughout central and eastern localities of the Southern Kordofan state as a result of fighting," it said, citing figures from the Sudanese Red Crescent, Humanitarian Aid Commission and U.N. agencies in Kadugli.

"Some of these people have now returned to their homes."

The U.N. humanitarian chief Valerie Amos on Tuesday said insecurity and restrictions on movement were hampering efforts to deliver aid in the state.

"The treatment of civilians in Southern Kordofan, including the reported human rights abuses and targeting of people along ethnic lines, is reprehensible," she said in a statement.

Khartoum denies charges of human rights abuses in Southern Kordofan. The northern army has dismissed allegations that it had made the humanitarian situation worse, saying it is working to help civilians, not hurt them.

Southerners voted to secede in a January plebiscite, the climax of a 2005 peace deal which ended decades of civil war between the north and south.

(Reporting by Alex Dziadosz; Editing by Janet Lawrence)