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South Sudan says its oil region is under attack again

Juba accuses Sudan of launching an attack in an oil region of the newly independent state yesterday and said it was preparing to strike back

JUBA // South Sudan accused Sudan of launching an attack in an oil region of the newly independent state yesterday and said it was preparing to strike back, in another sign of the festering violence along the frontier.

Philip Aguer, spokesman for South Sudan's army, the SPLA, said 27 people died in fresh fighting in Unity State, an oil-rich region on the border between Sudan and South Sudan. Weeks of border clashes have stoked fears that South Sudan and its northern neighbour could return to all-out war after failing to resolve wrangles over oil revenues, border demarcation and other issues since the south seceded last year.

Mr Aguer said Sudanese forces, militias and mercenaries yesterday attacked their positions in Hofra, where there have been a number of strikes in the past week.

"The SPLA is pursuing them and has repulsed the attackers. They have also captured three trucks," he said.

He also said the SPLA would counter what he said was a planned attack by Sudanese army forces on the disputed border towns of Jau and Paryang.

The Sudanese army spokesman was not immediately available for comment.

The renewed fighting and hostile rhetoric between the former civil war foes have prompted the United Nations to take up the crisis at the Security Council.

However, China and Russia, traditionally among Sudanese President Omar Hassan Al Bashir's main backers, are resisting a western push for the council to threaten both sides with sanctions if they fail to halt the conflict.

Fighting at South Sudan's northern border, much of which is badly demarcated, is threatening to push more people into hunger, the UN World Food Programme said from Juba.

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