Troop reinforcements to Sudan's Blue Nile
01 March 2013, 16:51
Khartoum - Sudan is sending hundreds of troop reinforcements
to the troubled Blue Nile region, state-linked media said on Thursday, after
reports of clashes with rebels in a strategic border town.
Battalion 191 has arrived in the Blue Nile state capital Ed
Damazin and two more battalions are expected, reported the Sudanese Media
Centre which is close to the security apparatus.
It said the move aims to "improve the security in Blue
Nile... to clean the state of rebels."
Witnesses also reported fighter planes and helicopters in
Sources told AFP that there has been fighting in El Kurmuk,
a border town about 240km south of Damazin.
"The reports that are coming consistently from that
region are [of] fighting between SPLM-N and SAF," one source familiar with
the situation said on Thursday.
"Kurmuk seems to be the hot-spot there," he said,
referring to the Sudan People's Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N) and the
Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF).
Another source on Tuesday had reported "heavy
fighting" in Kurmuk since the start of the week.
The war in Blue Nile has generally not been as intense as
the one in South Kordofan state, where the SPLM-N is also fighting, making the
battle around Kurmuk unusual.
The SPLM-N claimed last Sunday to have pushed into the
town's southwest but since then have made virtually no comment except to claim
fighting continues in the town.
Sudan's army spokesperson Sawarmi Khaled Saad could not be reached
for comment on Thursday.
Last Sunday, he denied the rebels were near the town and
said their claim was a "fabrication" designed to damage army morale.
Sudan's government severely restricts access to Blue Nile
and South Kordofan, where the SPLM-N took has been fighting government forces
Khartoum accuses South Sudan of backing the SPLM-N but the
South denies involvement.
Kurmuk, an important trading centre on the Ethiopian border,
is the third-largest town in Blue Nile and has been in government hands since
The report of troops arriving in Damazin came a day after
the rebel's spokesperson, Arnu Ngutulu Lodi, told AFP that Khartoum had sent
reinforcements from the Popular Defence Force (PDF) to the Blue Nile state
The PDF are a type of reserve force used frequently to
support the SAF.
A Sudan analyst said fighting in Blue Nile and Kurmuk would
be no surprise ahead of possible talks between the rebels and the government,
as each side would want to present themselves as being in a strong position.
The United Nations and the African Union have for months
called on the SPLM-N and Khartoum to reach a negotiated settlement.
Fighting in the two states has led to "truly
appalling" conditions for civilians trapped in the region, the UN
humanitarian operations director John Ging said in January.
More than 200 000 people have fled as refugees to South
Sudan and Ethiopia, the UN says.
An additional one million have been affected inside Blue
Nile and South Kordofan, according to figures from the humanitarian wing of the
rebels and data from the government's aid agency.