KAMPALA, Uganda — Fighting in Southern Sudan between the region's army and a rebel faction has killed 105 people, including 39 civilians, a southern army spokesman said Friday, underscoring a tenuous security situation in a land that is months away from becoming the world's newest nation.
A former high-ranking southern army member who had previously rebelled against the southern regional government attacked the towns of Fangak and Dor in the Upper Nile state on Wednesday, breaking a January cease-fire, said Col. Philip Aguer, the spokesman.
Troops loyal to the renegade commander, George Athor, captured Fangak and the fighting continued through Thursday until the southern military retook it, Aguer said. No new fighting was reported on Friday.
Kerry expresses regret to India after diplomat strip-searched
Secretary of State John Kerry called India's national security adviser on Wednesday to express his regret after one of Ind...
- Pope Francis draws crowds 4 times larger than Benedict
- Million-dollar Picasso sold at raffle for 100 euros
- India bars cheap US booze after envoy's strip-search
- UN: Syria is 'greatest humanitarian tragedy of our times'
- Kerry expresses regret to India after diplomat strip-searched
Aguer said 105 people were killed in the two towns, including 39 civilians in Fangak. Twenty-four southern police and soldiers and 42 of Athor's men were also killed, he said. The Associated Press earlier Friday inaccurately quoted Aguer as saying 140 people were killed.
The aid group Medecins Sans Frontieres said Friday it is treating dozens of wounded.
The AP attempted to reach Athor and his top aide for comment but phone calls to the remote region did not go through.Slideshow: Sudan: A vote on secession (on this page)
In a Jan. 9-15 independence referendum, voters in the south decided overwhelmingly to split off from Sudan, Africa's biggest country. The vote was the culmination of a 2005 peace agreement that ended more than two decades of war between north and south Sudan in which more than 2 million people died.
'Spirit of reconciliation'
Athor defected from his position in the southern army last year in order to run for governor in Jonglei state, the largest and most volatile of the south's 10 states. After losing the April vote, he launched a revolt against the southern government along with an unknown number of his troops.
The revolt waged by Athor and several other dissident military figures represented a significant security threat as the country prepared for the historic referendum. The renewed bloodshed is a reminder that dissident military figures abound in the region and need to be reined in as Southern Sudan prepares to become the world's newest country in July.
On Jan. 5 Athor signed a cease-fire with the army.
"We were preparing for peace and we don't know why he is waging war at the time when war has ended in Sudan," Aguer said. "Meanwhile we still maintain the spirit of reconciliation ... so if Athor stops fighting we will welcome him for reconciliation."
A U.N. spokesman, Kouider Zerrouk, said the U.N. mission in Sudan "is very concerned about the renewed fighting ... and the resulting civilian casualties."
Only on NBCNews.com
- From belief to betrayal: How America fell for Armstrong
- US to Syria neighbors: Be ready to act on WMDs
- China: One-child policy is here to stay
- New 'Practice Range' shooter game says it’s from NRA
- 'Gifted' priest indicted in crystal meth case
- China's state media admits to air pollution crisis
- French to send 1,000 more troops to Mali
U.N. leaders have engaged both sides and urged an immediate end to the attacks, Zerrouk said.
Last week in Upper Nile state, which borders Jonglei state, more than 60 southern soldiers who are members of the northern Sudanese army died in a mutiny related to the imminent breakup of the country.
Ongoing insecurity, the widespread presence of small arms, and severe underdevelopment are just some of the problems that Southern Sudan faces.
About 50 patients have been admitted to Medecins Sans Frontieres' health facilities.
"We are mainly seeing patients with gunshot wounds, and many have significant abdominal and limb injuries," said Tim Baerwaldt, head of the group's mission in Southern Sudan.
Medical supplies and personnel have been flown to Malakal, the major town in Upper Nile state, the medical group said.
Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.