Northern Sudanese troops appeared to have seized the contested town of Abyei, a UN spokeswoman said, increasing fears of conflict as the country’s south prepares to become the world’s newest country.
UN officials have seen 15 tanks belonging to the northern army in parts of the town, where earlier mortars slammed against a United Nations base, Hua Jiang said.
One of those mortar rounds exploded, but there were no casualties among UN personnel, she said.
The attack on the compound has prevented the UN forces from patrolling this contested town, Ms Jiang said.
The violence comes against the backdrop of a four-day visit by the UN Security Council to Sudan, starting yesterday.
Southern Sudan will become independent on July 9 and the UN has expressed concerns about recent violence in Southern Sudan and in several spots across the contested border region.
Southern Sudanese army spokesman Colonel Philip Aguer said that the northern army was bombing the area near Abyei from the air for a second day.
The United Nations peacekeeping mission in Sudan issued a statement earlier Saturday calling for the immediate cessation of hostilities in Abyei and urging the north and south to protect civilians in the areas where fighting may be ongoing.
Southern Sudan’s independence – approved overwhelmingly in a January vote – is less than two months away, but the status of Abyei has not been determined. Its future is the most important outstanding issue remaining to be settled between north and south.