KHARTOUM (AFP) – Two people were killed and eight wounded as suspected rebels shelled the capital of Sudan’s war-torn South Kordofan state Friday, residents said, as President Omar al-Bashir visited Juba.
The attack struck the east of Kadugli town at about 1:30 pm (1030 GMT), they said.
“Two shells hit an open area and three struck houses which burned to the ground. Two people were killed and eight injured,” said one resident, who witnessed the attack across from his own home.
Residents suspected the shells came from the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N), but the rebels’ spokesman said he did not yet have any information.
The shells crashed down as Bashir held talks in the South Sudanese capital Juba with his counterpart Salva Kiir in a symbol of easing tensions, particularly over the South’s alleged support for SPLM-N rebels.
“There was shelling for 45 minutes,” another resident said. “People got panicked.”
A third resident said he saw clouds of smoke rising after four explosions. He said the shelling came from the same direction which rebels admitted firing from in attacks late last year.
In early October, the SPLM-N began several weeks of periodic mortar attacks on Kadugli, forcing residents to flee.
Eighteen people died and 32 were wounded in those barrages, the UN children’s fund said.
The rebels said they were targeting military facilities in response to government air raids on civilian property.
October’s attacks began after Sudan and South Sudan reached a series of security and economic agreements which they hailed at the time as easing tensions after fighting along their disputed border earlier last year.
Under those pacts the two sides were to set up a demilitarised border buffer zone to cut cross-border rebel support.
But the deals were not implemented as Khartoum pushed for months to get guarantees that Sudan would no longer back the SPLM-N.
A breakthrough came at talks in Addis Ababa last month, when Sudan and South Sudan finally settled on detailed timetables to implement the measures.
They have since begun setting up the border buffer zone as part of the deals which, a diplomatic source said earlier, Khartoum hoped would weaken the rebels.
The United Nations and the African Union have for months called on the SPLM-N and Khartoum to reach a negotiated settlement to a war which has forced more than 200,000 people to become refugees in South Sudan and Ethiopia.
An estimated one million more have been affected inside Blue Nile and South Kordofan.
The SPLM-N says it is fighting to remove the Arab-dominated regime to ensure greater democracy, respect for ethnic diversity and human rights.
South Sudan armed and trained the SPLM-N when it was part of the south’s rebel force but says it cut military ties before the South’s independence in July 2011, under a peace deal that ended a 22-year civil war.
Analysts and diplomats say there is no doubt South Sudan continued to back the rebels.