Shelling Reported in Sudan’s Abyei Region

Posted June 17th, 2011 at 1:05 pm (UTC-5)
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The U.N. Mission in Sudan says mortar rounds struck near its base in Agok as north-south tensions continued over the future of the disputed Abyei region.

Spokesman Kouider Zerrouk told VOA that six shells hit within 150 meters of the mission's facility on Friday.

Zerrouk said there is conflicting information about whether the shelling came from the north's Sudanese Armed Forces or the south's Sudan People's Liberation Army.

The spokesman called on both sides to stop military actions in the Abyei region and said the humanitarian situation there had grown “very critical.”

Northern Sudan seized the oil-rich Abyei region last month, complicating southern Sudan's plan to declare independence on July 9.

The two sides have not agreed on which side will get the fertile, north-south border area.

Northern and southern Sudanese leaders on Friday opened talks to resolve outstanding issues ahead of the country's scheduled split.

Negotiators meeting in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia have been told by mediators they must keep working until a north-south deal has been reached.

Meanwhile, the World Food Program said Friday that north-south fighting in Southern Kordofan state is hampering efforts to reach hundreds of thousands of people who need food aid.

The agency said humanitarian workers need safe and unhindered passage in order to deliver life-saving aid.

On Thursday, negotiators working to secure a cease-fire in Southern Kordofan said they hoped to broker a deal in coming days.