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Sudan's seizure of key border town reignites concerns of civil war

According to South Sudanese leaders, the seizure of the strategic, oil-rich town of Abyei was a declaration of war by the northern government.

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Southern army spokesman Colonel Philip Aguer (l.) and information minister Barnaba Marial Benjamin (r.) at a press conference in Juba, Southern Sudan Sunday, where the Southern government demanded that the northern Sudanese army immediately withdraw from the disputed border town of Abyei after they seized control late Saturday.

Maggie Fick/AP

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Late Saturday evening, news trickled out from Sudan's most contested and militarized North-South border hotspot: the northern Sudanese army had invaded the town of Abyei with tanks.

The move, which followed two days of aerial bombardments and a declaration by President Omar al-Bashir that his government was dissolving Abyei's local government, is raising fresh concerns that Sudan could descend back into civil war before the South officially secedes on July 9.

According to southern leaders, the seizure of the strategic, oil-rich town was both a declaration of war by the northern government and a well-planned attempt to displace the Ngok Dinka people loyal to the south in order to permanently keep hold of Abyei after the south declares independence.

"The present occupation [by northern government forced] is illegal," said South Sudan's Information Minister Barnaba Marial Benjamin. "This is the responsibility of the [United Nations] Security Council to see that they are withdrawn."

Mounting clashes

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