South Sudan's army accused a defeated election candidate of ordering an attack on one of its bases that killed at least eight soldiers on Friday, stoking tensions days after the contested poll.
George Athor, defeated in the race to become governor of the south's oil-producing Jonglei state, denied ordering any attack, telling Reuters soldiers in the base had mutinied after receiving orders to arrest him.
Any confirmed involvement in the attack by Athor, who is also a senior officer in the south's army, would be a serious escalation in violence in the region, already hit by drought and clashes between heavily armed tribal groups.
Sudan this week wrapped up elections that were seen as a test of democracy in Africa's largest country, particularly in its south which is preparing for a referendum in January 2011 on whether to declare independence from the north.
Athor and other independent candidates accused the south's dominant party, the Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM), of harassing their supporters and rigging the vote.
The south's Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA) said that armed men attacked the southern army base in Jonglei's Doleib Hill area, close to state capital Malakal, early on Friday.
"We have full evidence the force was ordered by General George Athor," acting SPLA spokesman Malaak Ayuen told Reuters.
"He contested as a governor in Jonglei but lost," Ayuen said, adding that the intention behind the attack was unclear. "It was very surprising ... (We think) he became angry and is trying to create insecurity."
Ayuen said the army had captured five of the attackers who said they were working under Athor's orders.
Athor decided to run as an independent after failing to get the SPLM nomination. Speaking by satellite telephone from Jonglei, he denied having any forces in the area.
"They wanted to send a force to capture me but they refused to do this and now they were trying to arrest those officers who refused to go and attack me and so there was a mutiny," he said.
Athor said he did not know why they would want to arrest him. "You should ask Salva Kiir," he said, referring to the president of the semi-autonomous south.
Kiir and Sudan's President Omar Hassan al Bashir -- wanted by the International Criminal court to face charges war crimes in the western Darfur region -- were both returned to office in the election results announced on Monday.
The underdeveloped region is emerging from decades of north-south civil war that ended in 2005 with a peace deal that set up the elections and the 2011 referendum.
ReutersLast Mod: 01 Mayıs 2010, 12:48