KHARTOUM, Sudan (AP) — Sudanese government troops clashed with rebels in the conflict-wracked state of Southern Kordofan near the border with South Sudan, and each side claimed Monday it inflicted heavy losses on the other.
The clashes erupted Sunday in the Dandor area, 500 kilometers (300 miles) west of Khartoum. Southern Kordofan state has been hit by violence for nearly two years, displacing hundreds of thousands of civilians and killing scores.
Late Monday, Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir declared that his forces seized back another town in Southern Kordofan, Abu Karshoulah, captured by rebel fighters a month earlier.
In his nationally televised speech at a large rally in Khartoum, al-Bashir warned his southern neighbor against supporting rebels, calling them "mercenaries" and saying he would cancel all agreements with South Sudan if it continued to support them.
South Sudan broke away from Sudan in 2011 under a 2005 peace treaty that ended decades of war, but disputes remain over their common border, demilitarization and sharing of oil revenues.
"Let them drink their oil," al-Bashir said, in a characteristically fiery speech, implying he would not allow South Sudan's oil to pass through Sudan for export through the Red Sea ports.
South Sudan resumed oil production in April this year, 16 months after a shutdown caused by disagreements with Sudan over oil transit fees.
A spokesman for the Sudanese army, Col. Sawarmy Khaled, said government forces clashed with rebels who attacked Dandor, killing more than 70 and seizing two of their tanks. Khaled's statement was published in Sudanese media and quoted by official Radio Omdurman.
He did not mention government casualties.
From the other side, a rebel statement said Sudan People's Liberation Army-North and Sudan Liberation Army rebels carried out a joint attack Sunday on a Sudan government garrison, east of Southern Kordofan's state capital, Kadugli.
In the statement, SPLA-N spokesman Arnu Ngutullu Loddi claimed the rebels inflicted heavy casualties on the government side. "One helicopter was shot and it crashed near Kadugli," it said, and "one tank and two land cruisers mounted with heavy machines guns were also destroyed."
The rebels claimed they killed and wounded many government troops. They said five of their fighters were killed.
Neither claim could be independently verified.
The rebels warned of more attacks on government forces, and militias allied to them and appealed "to citizens inside Kadugli to distance themselves from all military and militia camps" to avoid being caught in the crossfire.
Many of Southern Kordofan's 1.1 million people are sympathetic to South Sudan and are in territory controlled by the rebel Sudan People's Liberation Army-North.
Sudan has repeatedly accused South Sudan of supporting rebels in Southern Kordofan, a claim denied by South Sudan. A recent report from the Small Arms Survey, an independent Swiss research group, said South Sudan provided logistical, financial and political support — but not weapons — to rebels in Sudan.
Many of Southern Kordofan's 1.1 million people are sympathetic to South Sudan, living in territory controlled by the SPLA-N.
Associated Press writer Charlton Doki contributed to this report from Juba, South Sudan.