KHARTOUM: More than 60,000 people have fled a town in Sudan’s main oil region since it was attacked by insurgents in April, the United Nations said on Thursday.
Government forces retook the town of Abu Kershola two weeks ago from fighters belonging to the Sudanese Revolutionary Front (SRF), a rebel alliance seeking to topple President Omar Hassan Al Bashir.
Abu Kershola lies in the northeastern tip of the oil-producing South Kordofan state.
But the SRF struck back, attacking a convoy of Sudan’s army chief of staff during a visit last week.
The fighting in Abu Kershola has displaced 63,000 people, the UN said in its report. Some 8,000 people have fled to Khartoum, more than 600 km away, while 44,000 were seeking shelter in the neighbouring state of North Kordofan.
“The security situation remains fragile,” the UN said.
For decades Sudan has been plagued by clashes between the government and rebels fighting against what they say is exploitation by a Khartoum elite.
The SRF is made up of three rebel groups from Darfur and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N), fighting along the border with South Sudan.
The violence has strained relations with South Sudan, which Sudan accuses of backing rebels. Juba denies the claims.
The unrest is a sensitive topic in Khartoum. A journalist working for the daily Al Sudani newspaper has been arrested after the army accused him of damaging its reputation, his lawyer said.
Khalid Ahmed wrote a report on Abu Kershola after visiting the area with the chief of staff.
In an unrelated development on Thursday two Sudanese air force crew died when their helicopter crashed in war-torn Blue Nile state, the army said, a week after another chopper went down South Kordofan.
The incident happened near the airport outside Ed Damazin, the capital of Blue Nile state, said army spokesman Sawarmi Khaled Saad.
“A military helicopter on a training flight crashed into an electricity tower,” he said.
Rebels claimed to have shot down the aircraft, although the Damazin area is government-controlled.
Insurgents of the SPLM-N in Blue Nile and South Kordofan have been fighting for two years.
Last Friday the Sudan Revolutionary Front, a rebel coalition to which SPLM-N belongs, said it shot down a military helicopter in South Kordofan.