Fighting spreads in Sudan border region

A rebellion by former pro-Khartoum fighters in South Sudan’s Upper Nile state has sparked two days of clashes, leaving at least 20 dead. The fighting around Malakal airport, close to the border with the North, began when loyalists of Gabriel Tang, who commanded a pro-Khartoum force during the 1983-2005 civil war, refused to withdraw to the North. The dead include two children and a Sudanese driver for the UN’s refugee agency.

The Tang loyalists are deployed alongside regular Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) in so-called Joint Integrated Units (JIUs) that also include former Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) forces. The JIUs were established under the peace agreement that ended the civil war in 2005. In reality, the units are far from integrated, with the component elements effectively operating as separate forces. Following last month’s referendum, in which the South overwhelmingly voted to secede, regular SAF forces are to withdraw to the North. July 9 has been set as a deadline to finalize outstanding issues before the South formally secedes. (AlJazeera, Feb. 5; Sudan Tribune, BBC News, Feb. 4)

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