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Mutiny kills at least 50 in strategic border area of South Sudan

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Fighting in an apparent mutiny has killed at least 50 people in a strategic area of South Sudan, according to a statement from Sudan's military on Sunday.

The death toll is more than double that of initial reports of clashes that started Thursday when former militiamen now serving in the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) refused to turn in their heavy weaponry.

Northern Sudanese (SAF) troops stationed in the South as part of "joint, integrated units" (JIUs) formed to keep the fragile 2005 North-South peace deal alive are heading back home as semiautonomous South Sudan gears up to officially secede from the North in July following its 99 percent vote for independence last month. But many of the former militiamen, whose roots are in the south, have refused to redeploy or give up their weapons.

Any violence in the South in the run-up to the region’s independence declaration in July is dangerous. But the convoluted dynamics of these clashes illustrate just how difficult preserving the peace will be for the southern government before and after July. What’s more, the current fighting demonstrates that, quite literally, breaking up Sudan is hard to do.

Upper Nile: Key state with a history of clashes

The fighting has shifted in the past two days from Makalal, the capital of South Sudan's Upper Nile state, north to the towns of Melut and Paloich, the latter area being ground zero for oil extraction in the most productive of all of Sudan’s oil fields.

The border region is no stranger to territorial clashes.

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