KAMPALA, Uganda (AP) — Clashes have spread along the border of Sudan and South Sudan, officials said Monday, with Sudanese officials claiming to have seized an area sympathetic to South Sudan.
A South Sudanese military official said the clashes are a "terrible escalation" of the border conflict that stretches back before South Sudan broke away from Sudan last year.
Fighting along the north-south border has been near constant over the past two weeks.
Southern army spokesman Col. Philip Aguer said Monday that Sudan’s air force killed five civilians in aerial attacks over the disputed town of Heglig.
The Sudan Media Center also reported Monday that Sudan’s army took control of Mugum, a stronghold of the southern army in Blue Nile state, which is near South Sudan’s border.
The government news service quoted an "informed" source of the command of the 4th Division as saying the division raided Mugum on Sunday, killed 25 rebels and seized a large quantity of weapons and equipment.
Troops from South Sudan on Wednesday captured the oil-rich border town of Heglig, claimed by Sudan.
Aguer, the southern army official, said the aerial attacks over Heglig also seriously wounded nine people and hit oil wells. He also said that the town of Bentiu in South Sudan’s Unity State was hit and that the conflict has spread to several southern states bordering Sudan, including Western Bahr el Ghazal.
"There has been continued bombardment by Sudan Armed Forces," Aguer said. "Our forces are now on maximum alert."
Fighting erupted in the disputed region of Abyei in May of last year, just months before South Sudan formally declared independence.
Rabie Abdelaty, a spokesman for the Khartoum government, ruled out peace talks with the south, saying it would hurt national pride if Sudan did not take back Heglig by force. Sudan earlier this month pulled out of scheduled talks.
"Our people are angry," he said Monday. "This is not a time for diplomacy. This is a time for pushing them and letting them know that they are irresponsible."
He added: "This is war. Our forces want to teach them a lesson."
Associated Press writer Mohamed Saeed contributed to this report from Khartoum, Sudan.