South Sudan, Sudan trade fresh accusations

Tensions simmer between Sudan and South Sudan.

South Sudan flag

JUBA/KHARTOUM - Showing no sign of a let-up in tensions, South Sudan accused Sudan on Thursday of bombing a village in its oil-producing Unity state while Khartoum complained its soldiers had been beaten in captivity.

The release of 14 Sudanese soldiers on Wednesday under a deal mediated by Egypt had been expected to ease tensions between the two countries, where disputes over oil revenues and border demarcation have threatened to escalate into all-out war.

But in a fresh slew of accusations and counter-accusations on Thursday, Philip Aguer, the spokesman for South Sudan's army, said Sudan had bombed the village of Chotchara on Wednesday. "Two MiGs, one Antonov and two gunships dropped four bombs near the cattle camps," he told Reuters.

Unity state has borne the brunt of aerial bombing after disputes simmering since South Sudan gained independence in July boiled over into border fighting three weeks ago. Two people were killed on Monday in Unity state's capital, Bentiu, some 80 km (50 miles) from the contested border.

Khartoum has denied bombing South Sudan and on Thursday its army spokesman, al-Sawarmi Khalid, reiterated that denial.

Meanwhile a Sudanese soldier, one of 14 prisoners handed over by South Sudan to Egypt - which flew them to Cairo and from there to Khartoum - said the group had been beaten and insulted during their detention.

"We were subject to all kinds of insults and beatings during our stay there," Lieutenant Khalid Hassan Ahmed, a doctor in the Sudanese army, told reporters at Khartoum airport.

South Sudan denied it had mistreated the soldiers and urged Khartoum to release all southern soldiers held prisoner.

The tensions between the two countries have halted all oil production, choking their largely oil-dependent economies and causing nationwide fuel shortages.

China, which has significant business and oil interests in both countries, has said it would send its special envoy for African affairs to Sudan and South Sudan soon to encourage talks. It has yet to give dates for envoy Zhong Jianhua's visit.

China is one of Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir's strongest allies. South Sudanese President Salva Kiir has also just been on an official trip to Beijing.