Sudanese war planes bombed a market in the capital of South Sudan's oil-producing Unity State on Monday, residents and officials said, an attack the southern army called a declaration of war.
Sudan denied carrying out any air raids but its President Omar Hassan al-Bashir ramped up the political tension by ruling out a return to negotiations with the South, saying its government only understood "the language of the gun".
Body of a child
A journalist saw aircraft dropping two bombs near a bridge linking two areas of Unity's capital Bentiu, although it was not possible to verify the planes' affiliation. He saw market stalls ablaze and the body of one child.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's press office issued a statement saying he "condemns the aerial bombardment on South Sudan by Sudanese Armed Forces and calls on the Government of Sudan to cease all hostilities immediately."
"Bashir is declaring war on South Sudan. It's something obvious," southern army (SPLA) spokesman Philip Aguer said after the Bentiu bombing.
Aguer and the United Nations Mission in South Sudan said two people were killed in the air strike in Unity state where the Greater Nile Petroleum Operating Company (GNPOC) operates blocks. China's CNPC leads this consortium, along with Malaysia's Petronas and India's ONGC Videsh.
"Early reports indicate the bombings started at 8.30 hours and that Rubkona market has been struck," the U.N. mission said in a statement, without spelling out who carried out the attack.
"These indiscriminate bombings resulting in the loss of civilian lives must stop," said Hilde F. Johnson, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for South Sudan.
Bomb the market
The mission said its officers had seen one bomb land on the market and three near a bridge. "A young boy burned to death as the hut he was in caught fire from the blast in Rubkona market area," it quoted one of its officers as saying.
Bentiu is about 80 km (50 miles) from the contested and poorly marked border with Sudan.
Sudan denied carrying out any air attacks in the area. "We have no relation to what happened in Unity state, and we absolutely did not bomb anywhere in South Sudan," the country's military spokesman, Al-
Sawarmi Khalid, said.
“Language on the gun”
In the worst fighting since the split, South Sudan earlier this month seized the disputed oil-producing territory of Heglig - then announced it had started withdrawing on Friday, following sharp criticism from the U.N. Secretary-General.
Bashir, dressed in military uniform, visited the Heglig region on Monday, descending from his plane to shouts of "Allahu akbar" - "God is greatest" - from soldiers and officials gathered on the tarmac.
Speaking to Sudanese army troops, he vowed not to negotiate with South Sudan after it had occupied the region.
"We will not negotiate with the South's government, because they don't understand anything but the language of the gun and ammunition," he said at a barracks near the oilfield along the contested border.