We beat them, Sudan's Bashir says

2012-04-20 22:05

Khartoum - Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir said on Friday his troops had defeated South Sudanese forces who occupied his country's main oilfield, but added that the battle was not over.

"They started the fighting and we will announce when it will end, and our advance will never stop," Bashir told a rally attended by thousands.

He dismissed a statement by his Southern counterpart Salva Kiir that the occupying troops had withdrawn.

"There is no withdrawal. We beat them by force... Until now, their people are running," Bashir, wearing an olive army uniform, said at military headquarters.

Defence Minister Abdelrahim Mohammed Hussein earlier announced on state television that his soldiers "were able to liberate Heglig town by force" after a 10-day occupation by South Sudan.

Border clashes between Sudan and South Sudan escalated last week with waves of air strikes hitting the South, and Juba seizing the Heglig oil hub on April 10.

While religious leaders in the north were calling during Friday prayers for a holy war to reclaim the territory, South Sudan's Information Minister Barnaba Marial Benjamin gave the first word that the crisis, which had sparked fierce international diplomacy to avert a wider war, was easing.

"An orderly withdrawal will commence immediately and shall be completed within three days," he said, reading a presidential statement.

Both Bashir and Hussein are wanted by the International Criminal Court for alleged crimes committed in Sudan's Darfur region several years ago.

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