Sudan rebels: We acted in self-defence

2012-10-09 16:22

Khartoum - Rebels in Sudan's South Kordofan said on Tuesday they acted in self-defence by firing artillery against the state capital, a rare barrage which state radio said killed five people.

"They are provoking us," Arnu Ngutulu Lodi, spokesperson for the Sudan People's Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N), told AFP.

He said Monday's attack followed government shelling and aerial bombardment of rebel positions, which was continuing Tuesday.

Sudan's army spokesperson could not be immediately reached to comment.

"The current military activities for the SPLM-N are a mere action of self-defence in front of the huge NCP government dry season offensive preparations," Lodi said, referring to the ruling National Congress Party.

The United Nations, which condemned what it called an indiscriminate and reprehensible attack, said one shell landed in the UN Children's Fund compound but failed to explode.

Official Radio Omdurman said the rebel shelling killed five people and wounded 23 but army spokesperson Sawarmi Khaled Saad reported one death.

The UN said it was unclear if civilians had been hurt.

"Our target in the town is military positions and compounds," including a Popular Defence Force militia base near Unicef, Lodi said, adding there was no rebel firing on Tuesday.

"It has had a significant effect on the ground."

Ethnic minority insurgents

He added that rebels on Monday killed government troops during an ambush of a convoy north of Kadugli.

The Kadugli shelling coincided with the start of talks there between the ruling party and others about how to end the war which the UN says has displaced or severely affected hundreds of thousands of people.

Saad, the army spokesperson, accused rebels of trying to disrupt the meeting but Lodi said there was no connection.

A Sudan analyst, however, said the insurgents would have wanted to create a "big bang" around the conference to which they were not invited.

"Such a high-profile event, you want to sabotage it or make a statement," the analyst said, declining to be named. "I think any rebel movement would think like that."

Since June last year the army has been battling the SPLM-N, who are also fighting in Blue Nile state.

The war began with fighting in Kadugli but since then the town has remained in government hands, although there has previously been combat nearby.

Ethnic minority insurgents from the SPLM-N had fought alongside rebels from southern Sudan who waged a 22-year civil war which ended in a 2005 peace deal leading to South Sudan's independence last year.