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Page last updated at 17:43 GMT, Wednesday, 12 May 2010 18:43 UK

South Sudanese army caught in fresh fighting

By James Copnall
BBC News, Khartoum

South Sudan army on parade
The south Sudan army says only two of its soldiers died in the latest fighting

There has been fresh fighting in south Sudan between the Southern army and forces loyal to the former general George Athor.

The army has denied claims by Mr Athor that dozens of its soldiers were killed in the clashes in Jonglei state.

Mr Athor was a defeated candidate in April's landmark elections in Sudan, which he insists were rigged.

At least eight people were killed when mutinous troops attacked an army base in Jonglei late last month.

Mr Athor denied leading the troops, but said he sympathised with them.

On Wednesday morning, gunfire was exchanged in Thoudiak between forces belonging to Mr Athor and the Southern army.

The former general said his soldiers fought off a large-scale attack, killing 83 while losing four of his own men.

Security concern

However, a spokesman for the Southern army said only an 11-man reconnaissance unit had been involved from his side.

map

He said two of his men had been killed and two wounded.

There was no independent confirmation of the scale of the fighting.

Mr Athor's rebellion has yet to gather real momentum, but it is a further security concern in a unstable region.

Last year, an estimated 2,500 people were killed in inter-ethnic fighting in the semi-autonomous south, which is controlled by the former Southern rebels, the SPLM.

A referendum is due in January 2011 on whether the south should secede from the mainly Muslim and Arab-dominated north.

Elsewhere in Sudan a low-level civil war continues in Darfur.

International peace keepers have announced they are worried by a build-up of government troops and rebel fighters from the Justice and Equality Movement (Jem) in the Shangil Tobay region.

Peace talks between Jem and the government seem to be breaking down.

On Monday, Khartoum asked Interpol to arrest Jem leader Khalil Ibrahim for planning an attack in Omdurman in 2008.



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