South Sudan accuses Khartoum of airstrike, troop incursion

South Sudan on Thursday accused the Khartoum government in the north of bombing 74 kilometers (46 miles) deep inside its territory, and of sending troops into contested border areas.

“They have flown into our territory 74 kilometers and are violating South Sudanese airspace,” Information Minister Barnaba Marial Benjamin said of the airstrikes midday Wednesday.

Sudanese troops are 17 kilometers (10 miles) inside the South’s oil-rich Unity state, an area also claimed by Khartoum, according to Juba.

South Sudan ̶ which declared independence from Khartoum in July ̶ has accused the north of carrying out several bombing raids in frontier regions, claims which have been denied by the Sudanese army.

“Two MiG (fighter jets) bombed Panakuat in Pariang county” Aguer told AFP on Thursday. “Two bombs landed ̶ one fell into an oil well and another into a drinking water well.”

Border tensions have mounted since South Sudan split from Sudan in July, becoming the world’s newest nation.

South Sudan took three quarters of Sudan’s oil reserves, but all pipeline and export facilities are controlled by the north.

Juba and Khartoum are on an oil dispute. 

On Tuesday, Khartoum said that it has appealed to diplomatic partner and investor China for help in resolving a protracted dispute over oil revenues with newly independent South Sudan.

Sudanese Foreign Minister Ali Ahmed Karti said that during a two-day stay in Beijing he delivered a letter from his president to Chinese President Hu Jintao and met with other leaders, as well as executives from state-run China National Petroleum Corp. The message, he said, was to offer Sudan’s continuing support for China’s investment in Sudan. He accused unspecified foreign powers of inciting South Sudan to cut oil supplies to Sudan.

“Some people ask, what does it benefit South Sudan to stop oil production to Sudan? In our judgment, we believe that they’re doing this not in the interests of South Sudan but in the interests of foreign political powers,” Karti told a news conference, speaking through a Chinese interpreter. “Many foreign powers do not want Sudan and China to profit from Sudan’s resources.”

Driven by its oil interests, China is caught in the middle of the dispute, despite efforts to build ties to the new government in South Sudan while maintaining long-standing relations with Sudan. China buys about two-thirds of the countries’ oil. The split that separated South Sudan from Sudan in July also divided their China-invested oil industry, leaving the fields mostly in South Sudan but the two pipelines out of them running through Sudan.

South Sudan cut flows to the pipelines last month when Sudan, after months of inconclusive bargaining, said it would divert some of the oil as an in kind transit fee. Nearly 30 Chinese engineering contractors were abducted in Sudan in January, but later were released.