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Heglig town liberated, says Sudan

20 April 2012, 19:00

Khartoum - Sudanese forces have retaken the main town in the Heglig oil region 10 days after South Sudanese troops seized it, the defence minister said on Friday.

"Our troops were able to liberate Heglig town by force, and captured it at 14:20 [11:20 GMT] today," Abdelrahim Mohammed Hussein announced on state television.

"The troops moved towards Heglig carefully so as not to destroy what remains of the infrastructure," he said, dressed in military fatigues.

"Our enemy suffered heavy losses in people and equipment," he added, after the army had maintained silence for several days about the situation on the ground.

Hussein is wanted by the International Criminal Court for alleged crimes against civilians in Sudan's Darfur region several years ago.

His announcement came shortly after South Sudanese President Salva Kiir ordered the immediate withdrawal of his troops from Heglig, following intensified global diplomatic efforts to pull the two nations from the brink of wider war.

"The Republic of South Sudan announces that the SPLA (Southern army) troops have been ordered to withdraw from Panthou-Heglig," Information Minister Barnaba Marial Benjamin said, reading out a presidential statement.

Sudanese troops launched a renewed counter-attack late Thursday with air strikes hitting Southern troops entrenched along the front line, Southern army spokesperson Philip Aguer said.

"There was fighting on Thursday evening, SAF (Sudan's army) was advancing and they were beaten," he said, adding he had no reports of fighting on Friday.



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