Oil-rich town in Sudan seized by Muslim majority North
Thousands of Christians in Sudan fled their homes in an oil-rich border town that was seized recently by the Muslim majority North.
The Sudanese Armed Forces launched bomb attacks and a ground invasion in Abyei town, successfully driving away “enemy forces,” including Christians and the South’s Sudan People’s Liberation Army, Reuters said.
Philip Aguer, SPLA spokesman said, “Abyei town is now under control of the SAF. They came with tanks.” At least three other villages were also bombed, Reuters reported.
The SAF used Antonov aircraft and long range artillery, striking a number of civilian neighborhoods, Worthy News reported.
Abyei town had been under dispute between the Muslim-majority North and the Christian majority South, and tensions heightened when the latter voted to secede in a referendum in January, which is expected to be implemented on July 9.
Christian-majority Southern Sudan voted for independence in the referendum, which comprised part of a 2005 peace pact between the North and the South after decades of civil war where some two million people died.
Abyei, which is rich in oil, was supposed to participate in the January referendum. The residents were supposed to vote on whether the town would become part of the South or the North. However, disputes arose regarding who could vote, and the referendum in Abyei did not push through.
With the recent invasion, many Christians and civilians of other faiths were killed, and thousands of Christians have been displaced, including some 20,000 who crossed the Kiir river and took refuge underneath trees, Worthy News said.
Christian persecution in Darfur
The melee in Abyei has also contributed to attacks by Muslim forces on Christian refugees in the Darfur Region, northwestern Sudan, where evangelist Hawa Abdalla Muhammad Saleh was arrested on charges of possessing and distributing bibles in Abu Shouk camp for Internally Displaced Persons, Worthy News reported.
Saleh was reportedly removed from the camp, which is situated in Al-Fashir, North Darfur, to Khartoum by security agents. If she is tried for apostasy, she may face a death sentence, according to Worthy News.
There is concern that extremists and other groups may be taking advantage of the fragile situation in Sudan with intent to further destabilize the country, leading to possible civil war, Worthy News said.
The U.S. slammed the SAF invasion of Abyei, and urged Khartoum to withdraw its forces. In a statement the White House said, “Failure to do so could set back the process of normalizing relations between Sudan and the United States and inhibit the international community’s ability to move forward on issues critical to Sudan’s future,” Reuters reported.
The UN Mission in Sudan called for dialogue between the North and the South in a statement saying, “We strongly encourage all parties to resume dialogue towards reaching a lasting political settlement,” Reuters reported.