News24

'Blue' nomads attack Sudan oilfields

2010-12-15 20:30

Khartoum - Armed nomads known as the "Blue Misseriya" staged at least two attacks on an oilfield in Sudan's tense Southern Kordofan border state in recent weeks and briefly held one worker, diplomatic sources said on Wednesday.

The reports will re-awaken fears for the security of installations in one of Sudan's main oil-producing areas, a territory that borders Sudan's strife-torn Darfur region.

Oilfields in the area are operated by China's CNPC. No one was immediately available for comment from CNPC in Khartoum.

South Kordofan is a focus of growing military tension between north Sudan and the neighbouring region of southern Sudan which is weeks away from the scheduled start of a referendum on whether it should secede.

Armed nomads attacked security guards at an oil installation in the remote Bilila area of Southern Kordofan on Tuesday last week and late in November, said the sources, speaking on condition of anonymity.

"There have been attacks by a group calling themselves the Blue Misseriya, southwest in Nagawa county," said one diplomatic source.

"There have been ongoing grievances against the oil companies, grievances about access to land, employment, benefits, compensation and the environment."

Nomadic Arab tribe

The group was suspected to be behind an attempt to kidnap an oil worker in the region in early November and the brief detention of a Chinese engineer on November 27, the source said.

Last week's attack was confirmed by another diplomatic official. There were no details of casualties.

The Misseriya is a nomadic, Arab tribe with different branches operating across the region and into Darfur. A tribal official said he would look into the reports of attacks.

Sudan is highly sensitive about reports questioning the security of its oil industry and the attacks have not appeared in state or local media.

Northern and southern leaders this month said oil-fields would be protected by joint north-south military unites before, during and after the referendum.

People from south Sudan are due to vote on January 9 on whether to secede or stay part of Sudan, a plebiscite promised in a 2005 peace deal that ended decades of civil war with the north.

The south has accused the north of trying to disrupt the vote to keep control of its oil and both have accused each other of building up troops near their border.

In Africa's largest country almost 75% of the current 500 000 barrels per day of crude output comes from wells in the south but had to pass through the north's pipelines and port to get to market.

Both Sudan's northern and southern economies are highly dependent on oil revenues.