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Seven killed in south Sudan clashes: army

world Updated: Jul 11, 2010 17:12 IST

At least seven people have been killed in fighting in south Sudan's Upper Nile state when soldiers attacked a rival militia, a military spokesman said on Sunday.

A southern army unit launched an attack on Friday on gunmen accused of membership in the military wing of a breakaway political party, said Major General Kuol Diem Kuol.

"There were seven of these men killed, and 11 were captured as prisoners," said Kuol of the southern Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA), a former rebel group that now acts as the south's army.

"On our side three were wounded, one seriously," he said. Kuol said the attack was launched on Friday morning against two bases in the oil-rich Upper Nile state.

"The forces are militias of Lam Akol," he added, referring to the leader of the Sudan People's Liberation Movement Democratic Change party (SPLM-DC), which split last year from the south's ruling SPLM.

"Their two bases were destroyed, and we seized military equipment including a machine gun and Kalashnikov rifles," Kuol added. "The situation is now calm, we are in control." Akol, a former foreign minister, was the only challenger to the south Sudan President Salva Kiir in April's elections. He has repeatedly denied accusations that his party has a military wing.

Many in the south accuse his breakaway group of wanting to undermine a referendum in January 2011 that could pave the way for independence in the semi-autonomous south.

The referendum was set up under a 2005 peace deal to end the south's 22-year civil war with the north, during which about two million people were killed, in a conflict fuelled by religion, ethnicity, ideology and resources like oil.