D. Bennett, ReliefAid.com
JUBA, Sudan — At least nine people, including two children, were killed in a shootout between North and South Sudanese soldiers in the southern town of Malakal, officials and U.N. and SPLA sources said on Friday. At least 20 more were wounded and taken to the Malakal hospital.
U.N. spokesman Kouider Zerrouk said one United Nations staff member died in the fighting, which started Thursday and continued into Friday, ending just before Friday noontime prayers at the mosque.
The fighting took place between soldiers from the south and the north that are members of the same northern army unit, said Col. Philip Aguer, a spokesman for the southern military.
The “Joint Integrated Unit” (JIU) is stationed in Malakal, Eastern Upper Nile and is near the Adar Yel oilfields. The JIU contains soldiers from the northern Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) and the southern Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA). The JIU was created as part of the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) north-south peace deal that ended more than two decades of civil war that had killed more than 2 million civilians.
Malakal has been the scene of violence between members of the Joint Integrated Units, and between Southern soldiers and Khartoum-sponsored militia forces, in 2006, 2008 and 2009. Malakal is seen as a flashpoint between the North and South because of its strategic importance and nearness to the Adar Yel oilfields in Eastern South Sudan. The Adar Yel oilfields produce more than 500,000 barrels of oil per day for export.
Fighting Thursday broke out among members of the same military unit after some resisted new orders to move to north Sudan in a redeployment ahead of the expected independence of south Sudan, according to Reuters news, quoting anonymous sources.
The JIU is a joint north-south military unit made up of troops from the northern Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) and the southern Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) has patrolled Malakal, the main town in Upper Nile.
“The fighting began Thursday night and didn’t stop until 11.30 a.m. today (Friday),” said Bartholomew Pakwan Abwol, spokesman for the South Sudan government of the surrounding Upper Nile state.
“There was a disagreement between (members of) the JIF component in Malakal. They were asked to move north,” said a U.N. official on condition of anonymity.
Abwol said the protesting SAF soldiers were ethnically southerners.
“Some are refusing to go north and be disarmed. They are southerners and they have rights here. But they think they will have no rights in the north,” Abwol said.