Sudan’s parliament has branded South Sudan’s government an “enemy” and called for the swift recapture of a disputed oil-producing region, as rising border tensions pushed the former civil war foes closer to another full-blown conflict.
South Sudan, which seceded from Sudan last July, seized the contested Heglig oilfield last Tuesday, prompting its northern neighbour to vow to recapture the area by “all means”.
Addressing the Khartoum parliament on Monday, speaker Ahmed Ibrahim al-Tahir accused the South’s ruling party, the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM), of posing a security threat to the north.
“We declare that we will confront the SPLM until we end its rule of the South, and will work to gather our resources to realise this aim,” he said.
“We are in a battle that does not finish with the recovery of Heglig, but with an end to the danger that comes from South Sudan.”
The assembly went on to adopt a resolution describing the SPLM government as “an enemy”, but it did not spell out the full implications of the decision.
Barnaba Marial Benjamin, South Sudan’s information minister, called the decision “ludicrous”.
“How can they call us an enemy?” he said.
South Sudan claims Heglig as a part of the South and says it will not withdraw its troops unless the United Nations deploys a neutral force to monitor a ceasefire.
It accused Khartoum on Sunday of reducing the oil facility “to rubble” in an air strike, an accusation denied by Sudan.
“If any damage has occurred in Heglig it may have been on the part of the army of South Sudan,” said Abdallah Ali Masar, Sudan’s information minister.
But the UN has condemned South Sudan’s occupation of the town and Ban Ki-moon, the UN secretary-general, repeated calls for South to withdraw troops and use “legal and diplomatic” measures to address the status of the town.
“He calls on both parties to end the fighting immediately and to respect international humanitarian law and the protection of civilians,” a statement by Annan’s spokesman said.
“He calls on the Government of Sudan to cease immediately all aerial bombardment of South Sudan territory. He also calls on the Government of South Sudan to withdraw immediately from Heglig and to use legal and diplomatic instruments to address its arguments on the status of Heglig.”
UN camp targeted
Meanwhile, the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) on Monday confirmed that a UN peacekeepers’ camp was among targets bombed by Sudanese warplanes.
Kouider Zerrouk, spokesman for the UNMISS, said there had been no casualties in Sunday’s attack.
But a South Sudanese minister said that seven civilians had been killed and 14 others wounded in an attack on Mayom, while the region of Bentiu was also bombed.
Gideon Gatpan, the minister, said that two bombs had fallen in the UN camp, destroying a generator and a radio.
Bombing raids on Sunday also killed nine civilians in South Sudan’s Unity border state, Gatpan said.
Al Jazeera’s Harriet Martin, reporting from Khartoum, said that “bombings have targeted sites like bridges by which people cross into Sudan from the South”.
“There has been consistent bombing by Sudan, but a military spokesman has denied that any bombing is taking place,” she said.
Martin said “it was impossible to know the exact situation in the conflict areas as both sides provide contradictory reports”.
Sudanese soldiers captured
Colonel Philip Aguer, South Sudan’s military spokesman, said on Monday that Sudanese attacks had also hit oil wells in Heglig.
A spokesman for Sudan’s military denied that its forces were conducting bombing raids anywhere inside South Sudan.
He also confirmed to Al Jazeera the capture of a number of Sudanese soldiers who had been wounded in Heglig.
South Sudan said on Sunday that it had also captured at least 14 Sudanese soldiers.
Fighting has been raging for almost a week since South Sudan captured Heglig, which provided half of Sudan oil needs.
The African Union as well as the UN have condemned the South and asked it to withdraw its troops from Heglig.