Sudan soldiers clash in Malakal: Several dead

Aerial view of Malakal
Image caption Malakal, on the River Nile, is seen as a potential north-south flashpoint

At least 13 people, including two children, have been killed in clashes between soldiers in the volatile south Sudan town of Malakal, doctors say.

Battles broke out on Thursday between rival northern troops, some of whom want to stay in the south. Malakal has previously seen north-south clashes.

The fighting comes as Southern Sudan is waiting for confirmation of the result of its independence referendum.

Provisional results say 99% of voters opted to secede from the north.

The vast majority of casualties seen in the hospital are civilians, caught in the battle which officials say has included heavy weapons such as mortars.

But more are feared dead in the areas of heaviest fighting, which doctors have not yet been able to access.

The fighting began when southerners who joined the northern army did not want to move, Upper Nile state spokesman Bartholomew Pakwan Abwol told the Reuters news agency.

"They think they will have no rights in the north," he said.

Another of the dead was a United Nations driver caught in crossfire, a UN spokesman said.

The southern army, the SPLA, has not become involved in the fighting.

It has previously clashed with northern militia in the town on the River Nile, leaving hundreds dead in 2006 and 2009.

It is still seen as one of the potential flashpoints along the north-south border.

Southern Sudan is set to become the world's newest nation on 9 July 2011.

Its referendum was part of a deal to end decades of conflicts between north and south, driven by religious and ethnic divides.

Map showing position of oilfileds in Sudan, source: Drilling info international

Both Sudan and the South are reliant on their oil revenues, which account for 98% of South Sudan's budget. But the two countries cannot agree how to divide the oil wealth of the former united state. Some 75% of the oil lies in the South but all the pipelines run north. It is feared that disputes over oil could lead the two neighbours to return to war.

Satellite image showing geography of Sudan, source: Nasa

Although they were united for many years, the two Sudans were always very different. The great divide is visible even from space, as this Nasa satellite image shows. The northern states are a blanket of desert, broken only by the fertile Nile corridor. South Sudan is covered by green swathes of grassland, swamps and tropical forest.

Map showing Ethnicity of Sudan, source:

Sudan's arid north is mainly home to Arabic-speaking Muslims. But in South Sudan there is no dominant culture. The Dinkas and the Nuers are the largest of more than 200 ethnic groups, each with its own languages and traditional beliefs, alongside Christianity and Islam.

Map showing infant Mortality in Sudan, source: Sudan household health survey 2006

The health inequalities in Sudan are illustrated by infant mortality rates. In South Sudan, one in 10 children die before their first birthday. Whereas in the more developed northern states, such as Gezira and White Nile, half of those children would be expected to survive.

Map showing percentage of households using improved water and sanitation in Sudan, source: Sudan household health survey 2006

The gulf in water resources between north and south is stark. In Khartoum, River Nile, and Gezira states, two-thirds of people have access to piped drinking water and pit latrines. In the south, boreholes and unprotected wells are the main drinking sources. More than 80% of southerners have no toilet facilities whatsoever.

Map showing percentage of who complete primary school education in Sudan, source: Sudan household health survey 2006

Throughout the two Sudans, access to primary school education is strongly linked to household earnings. In the poorest parts of the south, less than 1% of children finish primary school. Whereas in the wealthier north, up to 50% of children complete primary level education.

Map showing percentage of households with poor food consumption in Sudan, source: Sudan household health survey 2006

Conflict and poverty are the main causes of food insecurity in both countries. In Sudan, many of the residents of war-affected Darfur and the border states of Blue Nile and South Kordofan, depend on food aid. The UN said about 2.8m people in South Sudan would require food aid in 2013. The northern states tend to be wealthier, more urbanised and less reliant on agriculture.

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