South Sudan's move toward independence has taken a turn for the worse: Armed looters burned sections of a disputed Sudan border town today as north Sudan’s army refused UN orders to withdraw from it, Reuters reports. Entering the town with tanks, the north took control of Abyei this weekend; thousands have fled and the town is now deserted. “We are going to stay in Abyei until there is a different decision,” said the north’s defense minister. “Free citizens, your armed forces will hold all areas which the laws and agreements entrust to it.”
“They will work on establishing peace and stability so the government can reach a solution,” the official said. The north says it entered the town to banish southern soldiers it claims were there in violation of agreements; the south counters that Khartoum is trying to instigate a war . Amid growing hostility, the violence has ignited fears of a renewed conflict as the south prepares to secede on July 9. UN Security Council envoys met with southern leaders today in the south’s capital of Juba, where some 100 people protested the north’s move into Abyei.