War fears as Sudan planes bomb town
An engineer surveys the damage in the Sudanese oil town of Heglig, which was overrun by South Sudanese troops. Photo: Reuters
SUDANESE war planes have bombed a South Sudanese town, ignoring international calls to stop attacks and ratcheting up the threat of a full-blown war between the two nations.
The attack came hours after Sudanese forces launched an incursion more than 10 kilometres inside South Sudan's border - and two days after South Sudan ordered a withdrawal of its troops from the contested oil town of Heglig to allow international diplomacy to try to solve the disagreements between the nations.
Sudan denied it had attacked inside the South's border. It asserted instead that it had repulsed a major attack by southern-backed rebels in South Kordofan, on its own side of the border.
But there appeared to be little doubt that Monday's bombing was conducted by the government in Khartoum, Sudan's capital.
Witnesses reported seeing Soviet-made warplanes attacking the town of Bentiu. The South Sudanese military does not have an air force.
Violence has steadily increased since South Sudan broke away from Sudan last year, becoming the world's newest country. Khartoum and the South's capital, Juba, have been embroiled in disagreements over contested border areas and the sharing of oil revenues. They have backed proxy rebel forces inside each other's countries and engaged in high-stakes verbal assaults that have drawn them closer to war.
The US, UN and the international community have urged both sides to stop their attacks. The latest call came from US President Barack Obama, who urged the presidents of both countries to return to the negotiating table.
Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir visited troops near the Heglig oilfield and ruled out talks with South Sudan because of its takeover of the town. ''We will not negotiate with the South's government because they don't understand anything but the language of the gun and ammunition,'' he told Sudanese troops.