Capture of boats blocks river transport in south Sudan
Southern Sudan rebels said Monday, August 20, that they had blocked river transport between the city of Juba and Malakal town after capturing a steamer and three motor boats they claimed belonged to a state-owned oil company.
"The Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA) in Central Upper Nile have effectively blocked river transport between Malakal and Juba," SPLA spokesman Samsom Kwaje said in a statement. Juba, the main city in southern Sudan, and Malakal are both under government control.
Kwaje said the steamer and an attached barge it seized last Wednesday belonged to the El Salaam Petroleum Company and bore the firm's name. Kwaje scoffed at a report in a government newspaper in Khartoum that claimed one of the boats belonged to Salma Development and Services Co., a fishing company, and that the firm had demanded that the boat be returned.
"That not true. The boats were carrying soldiers," Kwaje told AFP. He said that the boats were on reconnaissance trips along Bhar Al-Jebel river. A third boat was captured on Thursday while on a mission to look for the missing steamer, according to Kwaje's statement.
"A number of oil workers, government soldiers and and their allies are also being held as prisoners of war (POW)," said Kwaje. "The three motor boats were ferrying GOS (government of Sudan) soldiers and their allied militias to protect oil installations and fight the SPLA. They are therefore legitimate military targets," he added.
The SPLA accuses Khartoum of using oil revenues to wage war against the southern separatists. The government has been exporting oil since the end of August 1999 with the help of Chinese, Malaysian, Canadian, Swedish and other companies.
Kwaje claimed that the SPLA was now "in full control of a significant portion of River Nile and therefore making the eastern area of Unity State (Bentiu county) non-operational". "This portion cannot be now be used and is closed to all traffic whether oil companies, fishing boats or GOS security," he added.
The southern-based mainly animist and Christian rebels have been fighting a civil war against successive Arab and Muslim Khartoum governments enforcing Islamic law since 1983, against a backdrop of localized fighting over resources. ― (AFP, Nairobi)
© Agence France Presse 2001
© 2001 Mena Report (www.menareport.com)
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