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South Sudan Warns Khartoum is Planning Attack

Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir welcomes his South Sudanese counterpart Salva Kiir for his first visit since southern secession to discuss key unresolved issues that have undermined north-south relations, during his arrival at Khartoum Airport, Sudan, Oc

South Sudan's President Salva Kiir has rejected allegations from the north that his government is backing rebels fighting Sudanese armed forces. Kiir also accused Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir of planning to attack the south.

Kiir told reporters that accusations his country is supporting rebels in Sudan's Blue Nile and Southern Kordofan states are untrue.

“I want to deny this before you. That it is not true. These claims are just utterly baseless and they are just maliciously planned,” said Kiir.

Trading accusations

Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir has accused the South of supporting the Sudan People's Liberation Movement - North (SPLM-N). The armed group was the northern branch of South Sudan's ruling party when Sudan was one nation.

For several months, Sudanese armed forces have been battling SPLM-N fighters in both Blue Nile and Southern Kordofan, which sit on the border with South Sudan.

The South Sudanese president, speaking in the capital, Juba, said Bashir's accusations against the South were a “prelude” to future action.

“The fact is that, or the truth of the matter, that people are not talking about, is that Bashir and his group believes that it was a mistake on their side to hand over this, our beautiful land called South Sudan, to the infidels. And they must take it back,” said Kiir.

Simmering conflict

Kiir's remarks came after al-Bashir reportedly threatened to return to war with South Sudan. He was quoted in the Sudan Tribune earlier this week as saying of the South, “If they want war, our army is there.”

Tension between Sudan and South Sudan was running high even before the south declared independence in July. The sides clashed earlier this year in the disputed and oil-rich Abyei region. And they have yet to settle disputes on borders and how to share oil revenue.

The disagreements have dashed hopes for a peaceful separation of the two Sudans, which fought a 21-year civil war that ended six years ago.

The United Nations has estimated that more than 28,000 people have fled Blue Nile state, mostly to Ethiopia, since fighting began in September.

The U.S.-based rights group, The Enough Project, has accused Sudanese armed forces of committing atrocities in Blue Nile, including killing and raping civilians.