The United Nations said it has asked south Sudan to investigate attacks on UN peacekeepers last week in the disputed Abyei region by what appear to have been southern police or soldiers.
Such attacks, the world body said, amount to war crimes.
“The available information and eyewitness accounts describing the assailants, including their uniforms, strongly suggests that the attackers were members of the southern Sudan police or military forces,” UN spokesman Martin Nesirky told reporters in New York.
“We’ve asked the government of south Sudan to launch an investigation immediately and hold the perpetrators accountable, as attacks on UN peacekeepers constitute war crimes under international law.”
Khartoum accused the south of ambushing northern troops traveling in a convoy with UN peacekeepers on May 20 in the Abyei region, Reuters reports.
The southern Sudanese army denied the allegation but Nesirky’s remarks made clear preliminary UN evidence appeared to back the north’s version of events.
South Sudan voted to become independent in a referendum in January agreed to under a 2005 peace deal but tensions have risen in the oil-producing Abyei border region where both sides have built up forces.
Abyei residents were also supposed to have a referendum at the same time over whether to join the north or south. Disputes over who could vote derailed that ballot and talks over the status of the region have stalled.
The south will officially secede from the north on July 9.
Earlier on Tuesday, US Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice told reporters in Juba, the capital of south Sudan, there have been “horrific” reports of looting and burning in Abyei after northern troops seized the area.
Rice is co-leading a UN Security Council visit to south Sudan. The 15-nation body has also visited northern Sudan and Ethiopia. The council had hoped to go to Abyei but that leg of the trip was called off amid reports of escalating violence.
Nesirky said the United Nations has sent more blue-helmeted peacekeepers to Abyei to help stem the violence.
“The first airlift of 125 peacekeepers from the force reserve company from Kadugli arrived in Abyei at 11:50 local time this morning,” he said.
“In addition to the personnel, armored personnel carriers are being redirected from various locations to Abyei in order to support future patrol activities.”