Sudanese Border Town Burned, Looted (Video)

May 23, 2011 Updated: September 29, 2015

[youtube]q2plWzIN6-8[/youtube] Sudan: Strongly condemning violence in Abyei UN urges immediate halt to fightingGunmen have looted buildings and set fire to parts of the Sudanese border town of Abyei amid escalating conflicts between Sudan and South Sudan, the United Nations reported Monday.

Abyei, which is located on the border of Sudan and South Sudan, had been besieged for the past two days with both sides claiming it as their own.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon urged Sudan to withdraw its troops from the town and “strongly condemned” clashes between troops on both sides.

South Sudan recently voted to secede from Sudan after two decades of conflict between the north and the south, and some fear that the recent attacks may again ignite clashes between both sides.

“Members of the Security Council condemn the escalatory military operations being undertaken by the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF), which have taken control of the area in and around Abyei town,” said the U.N. Mission in Sudan (UNMIS) in a statement released Monday.

A visiting UNMIS commander, Maj. Gen. Moses Obi, visited the town and said he could hear heavy mortar and small arms fire.

On Sunday, the Security Council said the government of Sudan’s troops taking over of Abyei violated the peace accord signed in 2005 that ended the north-south civil war and threatens to undermine the peace.

Several thousand people fled the Abyei, leaving buildings abandoned and much of the town empty.

It is unclear who is responsible for the looting and burning. In its condemnation, the U.N. Mission in Sudan called on Sudan’s government to make sure its SAF “fulfill their responsibility and intervene to stop these criminal acts.”

The disputed ownership of the town has remained one of the largest impediments to a lasting peace accord between the north, which is Muslim majority, and the south, where most are Christian or practice nativist religions. In this region African and Arab tribes mix and both claim historical right to the land.

The historical tensions have been compounded by oil resources in the Abyei region as well as the Greater Nile Oil Pipeline. The pipeline travels through the region and up through Khartoum to Port Sudan on the Red Sea, where Sudan’s oil is exported.

Dozens have died in clashes in the region since January, when a vote for Abyei to decide if it would join the north or the south failed to take place because of disagreement over voter eligibility.

The southern region is scheduled to officially secede on July 9, the result of a referendum held in January.

The U.N. said last week that a convoy that was traveling with northern troops was attacked by the south, prompting condemnation from both the U.N. and Khartoum. On Sunday, Southern Sudan SPLA Col. Philip Aguer denied his forces ambushed the SAF unit withdrawing from Abyei.

According to BBC, the north said that it acted to secure the town after the attack.

The U.N., however, urged the north to “withdraw immediately” from Abyei.