MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:
Now to the front line in South Sudan. The south's government has accused the north of launching new airstrikes, a charge the north denies. This comes a week after the UN Security Council called on both Sudans to stop fighting and settle their disputes or face possible sanctions. NPR's Ofeibea Quist-Arcton reports now from South Sudan in a place called Unity State, which has borne the brunt of the North's cross-border strikes.
OFEIBEA QUIST-ARCTON, BYLINE: Morale boosting songs keep up the spirits of South Sudan soldiers. They're observing a cease fire amid a tense calm here in Panakuach, less 10 miles from the frontier with Sudan, in the oil zone. After singing, Private John Nkoi Deng says he knows what he's defending.
PRIVATE JOHN NKOI DENG: This is our land. Yes, it belongs to us.
QUIST-ARCTON: Southern troops have dug trenches in the black earth at the front line straddling the oil producing region.
(SOUNDBITE OF TROOPS SINGING)
QUIST-ARCTON: Major General Mangar Buong says his men remain on alert and on the defensive in Panakuach. Last month, the south briefly captured the oil-rich town of Heglig, widely accepted to be in the north. That move triggered the most recent clashes. Southerners claim Heglig as their own, but pulled out their troops ostensibly because of international pressure.
General Buong warns that if dialogue breaks down and Sudanese air strikes continue, South Sudan will respond with force and claim what he calls its territorial rights, including Heglig.
GENERAL MANGAR BUONG: We don't want war, but it is our right. It is our right to defend South Sudan.
QUIST-ARCTON: A bumpy two-hour drive away from the front line in Bentiu, the capital of the south's oil-exporting Unity State, survivors are slowly recovering in the hospital from air strikes by Sudan. The north denies any such aerial bombardments and says the south is backing rebels who are destabilizing Sudan.
PETER GATKUOTH TOB: Since the beginning of April, we receive, of course, many cases of different injuries, injuries related to dropping of bombs. Most of them are civilian, if not all are civilian.
QUIST-ARCTON: Dr. Peter Gatkuoth Tob, the medical director of Bentiu State Hospital is treating the patients.
TOB: We don't know what is the reason for dropping bombs on the civilians. (Unintelligible) It's a very painful...
QUIST-ARCTON: Dr. Peter Gatkuoth Tob, the medical director of Bentiu State Hospital, is treating the patients.
TOB: We don't know what the reason is for dropping bombs among the civilians. As a doctor, I will (unintelligible). It's very painful to me.
QUIST-ARCTON: Sitting up and staring down at her amputated left leg in disbelief, Nyachieng Nguot Teny is clearly traumatized. She's 25 and the mother of 7-month-old Dak Tab, a baby boy with a fractured limb.
NYACHIENG NGUOT TENY: (Foreign language spoken)
QUIST-ARCTON: Nguot Teny describes hearing a plane and seven loud booms - bombs being dropped. The eighth, she didn't hear. It landed on her thatched-roof hut blowing her leg away and wounding her son. The next thing, she woke up in the hospital.
MOHAMED ABDERAHMAN KILI: (Foreign language spoken)
QUIST-ARCTON: In the ward next door lies Mohamed Abderahman Kili, a 56-year-old trader. He's another casualty from an earlier bombing in April. The doctor says he suffered more than 90 percent burns when his shop was hit. Most of Kili's black skin has peeled off, leaving a mass of livid pink and yellow; his face, ears, arms, and back are still raw.
KILI: (Foreign language spoken)
QUIST-ARCTON: Despite his horrific burns, Kili believes Sudan and South Sudan can live in peace side by side. The young amputee mother says it's in God's hands whether her infant son grows up in peace.
Ofeibea Quist-Arcton, NPR News, Panakuach, South Sudan.