Sudan’s southern army accused soldiers from the north of ambushing its men on its territory two months before a referendum that could see the south secede.
The two armies agreed last week to try to defuse escalating tensions after tit-for-tat accusations that each side was massing troops along the disputed border area that includes the oil-producing Abyei region.
“They came into the territory of Upper Nile (state) and ambushed our soldiers … at 0900 (0600 GMT),” said SPLA spokesman Kuol Diem Kuol, reports Reuters.
“They clashed with about 10 of our soldiers and wounded one officer and then they ran back to their base.”
He said Saturday’s clash was a violation of the 2005 peace deal signed by the former north-south foes to end Africa’s longest running civil war.
Sudan’s northern army spokesman denied they had any troops south of the border. “There has been a joint committee formed to look into these allegations and we will wait for their report,” al-Sawarmi Khaled said. A UN official who declined to be named said they had heard the reports of the skirmish and would be investigating.
Southern Sudanese will vote in the referendum on secession on January 9, 2011 — the culmination of the peace deal, which has been marred by bickering over its implementation.
However, the truce between the two sides has largely held since 2005. But clashes have happened in Malakal, the capital of Upper Nile state and Abyei, which also lies along the border. Both the former rebel Sudan People’s Liberation Movement, which rules southern Sudan, and the northern ruling National Congress Party say they do not want a return to war.
But analysts fear local tensions, especially along the border, could drag the two sides back to conflict. Sudan’s north-south war was fuelled by differences over oil, religion, ethnicity and ideology. It claimed some 2 million lives and destabilised much of east Africa.