Conflict & Justice

Sudan: Muslim mob torches Catholic church in capital Khartoum


A South Sudan People's Liberation Army soldier in Heglig, on April 17, 2012. The South Sudan government eased tensions on Friday by beginning the withdrawal of all its troops from Heglig.


Adriane Ohanesian

A Muslim mob in Sudan’s capital Khartoum has set fire to a Catholic church frequented by South Sudanese, as South Sudan accused Sudan of bombing one of its oil facilities and the conflict between the two East African neighbors threatens to escalate into all-out war.

Around several hundred people torched the church in Khartoum’s Al-Jiraif district on Saturday night, shouting insults at the mainly Christian and animist southerners as they did so, according to the Associated Press.

The church was reportedly part of a complex that included a school and dormitories, and was also used by Ethiopian refugees living in the city. Fire services were unable to put out the blaze.

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The incident appeared to be part of the fallout from continuing violence between Sudan and South Sudan over a disputed border and oil revenues.

South Sudan secured its independence from the north last July following a 2005 peace deal that ended a bloody civil war in which over 1.5 million people died. However, tens of thousands of southerners remain in Sudan, having been driven there as a result of the two-decade-long conflict.

On Saturday South Sudan accused Sudan of bombing on its oil facilities, with a military official telling the BBC that the Unity oil field had been targeted. The government of President Omar al-Bashir has yet to respond to the claim.

A day earlier, South Sudan announced it was withdrawing its forces from the disputed Heglig oil field, which it had occupied since April 9, prompting Bashir to promise to “liberate” the people of South Sudan from their “insect” rulers in the capital, Juba.

Bashir later claimed Sudan had regained Heglig by force. Khartoum has rejected South Sudanese suggestions that international forces be deployed in Heglig, saying the area has been internationally recognized as Sudanese territory and adding that the government will be seeking monetary compensation for the damage caused by South Sudanese troops.

More from GlobalPost: Sudan and South Sudan fighting ends, for now