JUBA, South Sudan – South Sudan's army said Tuesday it killed 27 soldiers from Sudan's armed forces during a clash along the countries' contested border.
South Sudan's military spokesman Col. Philip Aguer said the fighting took place in Hofra along the road to South Sudan's Unity State capital, Bentiu.
He said three South Sudanese soldiers were killed and two others wounded after soldiers for the south intercepted three Sudanese trucks mounted with machine guns traveling to positions held by South Sudan's soldiers.
"They were trying to surprise the SPLA, but we had been monitoring their preparations for the last three days," said Aguer. The SPLA is an acronym for South Sudan's military.
He said South Sudan's forces killed 27 soldiers, including the Sudanese major leading the attack, before driving the trucks back across the border.
This is the latest in a steady stream of confrontations between the two forces since South Sudan left the oil-rich and disputed town of Heglig more than 10 days ago. South Sudan had invaded Heglig, saying it belonged to the south. Sudan later retook the town; Sudanese forces say they pushed out the South Sudanese while South Sudan says its troops pulled out to avoid an all-out war. Sudan elevated the tension even further by bombing South Sudan.
Aguer said Sudan's military launched Tuesday's attacks from Heglig. Aguer said the SPLA forces only pursued the Sudanese troops "about 5 kilometers" from Hofra, and did not plan to immediately respond.
But he said South Sudan would retaliate if Sudan continued launching attacks from Heglig.
"This may be the first of many attacks," he said. "It has not reached that level, but definitely if they continue to advance toward Jau and Pariang, SPLA has the right."
The international community has condemned the fighting and has called for an end to the hostilities between the countries, but those calls have largely been ignored. The two nations' armies have continued to clash around positions at Teshwin and Panakuac near the disputed border, and Sudanese jet fighters have repeatedly dropped bombs inside Unity State, including on Bentiu.
South Sudan split from Sudan in July last year, but the two countries have yet to agree on border demarcation and divvying up oil revenues and resources.