Sudan rebels lay blame on government: They are provoking us!
Rebels in Sudan's South Kordofan said on Tuesday they acted in self-defence by firing artillery against the state capital, a rare barrage which the governor reported killed six people.
"They are provoking us," Arnu Ngutulu Lodi, spokesman for the Sudan People's Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N), said.
He said Monday's attack followed government shelling and aerial bombardment of rebel positions, which was continuing Tuesday.
Sudan's army spokesman could not be immediately reached to comment.
"The current military activities for the SPLM-N are a mere action of self-defence in front of the huge NCP government dry season offensive preparations," Lodi said, referring to the ruling National Congress Party.
The United Nations, which condemned what it called an indiscriminate and reprehensible attack, said one shell landed in the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) compound but failed to explode.
South Kordofan Governor Ahmed Haroun, quoted by the official SUNA news agency, said six women and children were killed and 22 people were wounded.
The UN said it was unclear if civilians had been hurt.
"Our target in the town is military positions and compounds," including a Popular Defence Force militia base near UNICEF, Lodi said, adding there was no rebel firing on Tuesday.
"It has had a significant effect on the ground."
He added that rebels on Monday killed government troops during an ambush of a convoy north of Kadugli.
The Kadugli shelling coincided with the start of talks there between the ruling party and others about how to end the war which the UN says has displaced or severely affected hundreds of thousands of people.
The army on Monday accused rebels of trying to disrupt the meeting but Lodi said there was no connection.
A Sudan analyst, however, said the insurgents would have wanted to create a "big bang" around the conference to which they were not invited.
"Such a high-profile event, you want to sabotage it or make a statement," the analyst said, declining to be named. "I think any rebel movement would think like that."
Since June last year the army has been battling the SPLM-N, who are also fighting in Blue Nile state.
The war began with fighting in Kadugli but since then the town has remained in government hands, although there has previously been combat nearby.
Ethnic minority insurgents from the SPLM-N had fought alongside rebels from southern Sudan who waged a 22-year civil war which ended in a 2005 peace deal leading to South Sudan's independence last year.
The shelling comes after Sudan and South Sudan late last month signed deals on security and cooperation that they hailed as ending their countries' conflict.
The neighbours fought along their undemarcated frontier in March and April, sparking fears of wider war and leading to a UN Security Council resolution ordering a ceasefire and the settlement of unresolved issues, under African Union mediation.
Among the deals is agreement on a demilitarised border buffer zone designed to cut support for rebels in South Kordofan and Blue Nile.
Khartoum accuses Juba of backing those insurgents, and the South in turn accuses Sudan of arming rebels in its territory.
The UN has repeatedly expressed concerns about the humanitarian situation in South Kordofan and Blue Nile, where Khartoum has cited security reasons for tightly restricting the operations of foreign aid agencies.
In early August both the government and rebels signed memorandums with the African Union, Arab League and UN to allow for humanitarian access -- including in rebel-held areas -- via ceasefire zones.
Talks on the plan are continuing and the aid has yet to flow.