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Rebels attack oil pipeline, Sudanese official says

By Isma'il Kushkush, for CNN
updated 8:21 PM EDT, Thu June 13, 2013
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • A bombing sparked a fire at the pipeline that lasted several hours, an official said
  • Sudan blames the attack on rebels aided by South Sudan
  • The rebel group Justice and Equality Movement denies involvement in the attack

KHARTOUM, Sudan (CNN) -- Rebels aided by South Sudan bombed an oil pipeline in the disputed district of Abyei, a Sudanese army official said on Thursday.

"At 9 p.m. on Wednesday, a group belonging to the Justice and Equality Movement...aided by South Sudan launched an attack, specifically ... into Sudanese territory," said Al-Sawarmi Khalid, the Sudanese army's spokesperson, in a statement to the semi-official Sudanese Media Center (SMC).

"This renegade group was given technical support from the South Sudanese military which enabled it to bomb an oil pipeline in the area of Ajaja inside the administrative borders of Abyei," the statement continued.

According to Khalid, a fire stemming from the bombing lasted for several hours, "but it has been put out and the pipeline is now being repaired."

On Saturday, Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir ordered the shutdown of pipelines carrying South Sudanese oil through Sudan, accusing South Sudan of supporting rebels in Sudan.

South Sudanese military spokesperson Philip Aguer could not be reached to comment.

A statement by the The Justice and Equality Movement (JEM), however, denied involvement in the attack."The Justice and Equality Movement did not bomb the pipeline between the Difra oil filed and Heglig," the statement read.

JEM refuted the allegation that it receives support from South Sudan and said it does not have any presence in Abyei.

Instead, JEM accused the Sudanese government of not being able to carry out its plans with shutting the flow of South Sudanese oil, and of being was responsible for the blast.

"Since the regime was not able to implement this decision, it came up with a ridiculous scenario of bombing the pipeline between Difra and Heglig and then accusing JEM of responsibility," the group said.

South Sudan became independent from Sudan in July 2011, following a popular referendum and a war that left nearly 2 million people dead. But the two nations have remained at odds on some issues, including defining their borders and oil exports.

When they separated, South Sudan acquired three quarters of Sudan's oil reserves. The two countries have been at odds about how much landlocked South Sudan should pay to use a pipeline and processing facilities in the north.

In January 2012, South Sudan shut down the production of oil and in April as both countries nearly slipped into all-out war.

In September 2012, under international pressure, the leaders of both countries signed a cooperation agreement that addressed their unresolved issues, and in March 2013, both sides agreed to resume oil production.

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