But local residents suspect anti-government rebels hit the base by mistake as they were aiming for a nearby football stadium scheduled to host the opening matches of a regional tournament on Tuesday.
Two shells struck a UN logistics base in South Kordofan’s capital Kadugli, UN peacekeeping spokesman Kieran Dwyer told AFP. Rebels have been fighting Sudanese forces in the state for the past two years and the UN says there is a major humanitarian crisis there.
“One United Nations peacekeeper was killed in this shelling and two more injured. We condemn in the strongest terms this shelling,” Dwyer said.
The UN was not able to immediately say who carried out the attack, but insurgents of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N) have periodically shelled Kadugli since late last year, causing some fatalities.
The UN does not have access to much of South Kordofan, but it uses Kadugli as a support base for its peacekeeping mission in nearby Abyei, a territory disputed by Sudan and South Sudan.
Sudan accuses the South Sudan government of backing the South Kordofan rebels, and tensions between the two sides have risen again in recent weeks.
Before Friday’s incident, the rebels’ last mortar barrage landed in the town’s airport area in late April.
Now they have shifted to the town’s west end.
“The funny thing is that this was the safest area in Kadugli,” one resident told AFP, asking for anonymity.
“I think they were targeting the stadium and the police base near the stadium.”
Another resident said he heard heavy weapons fire on Friday morning at the same time as the shelling.
“They want to disrupt (the) CECAFA” Club Cup, said the resident.
An SPLM-N spokesman could not be reached for comment.
Kenyan champions Tusker were scheduled to play in the opening day match in Kadugli but announced on June 6 that they were pulling out.
Club chairman James Musyoki explained that “no one can guarantee we will be safe”.
Kadugli is co-hosting the tournament with El Fasher in Sudan’s war-torn Darfur region. Tanzania’s government warned two teams from that country against travelling to Darfur for their matches.
South Kordofan state governor Ahmed Haroun told worshippers at a mosque in Kadugli on Friday that CECAFA “will continue”, said a resident who was there.
Friday’s attack comes a day after Sudan’s army blamed rebels allegedly backed by South Sudan for an explosion and fire in an oil pipeline in Abyei.
Both South Sudan and the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) rebels from Darfur denied any involvement. JEM accused the government of cooking up a scenario to blow up the pipeline and then blame the rebels.
JEM belongs to the Sudan Revolutionary Front rebel coalition with the SPLM-N in South Kordofan and Blue Nile states.
Analysts say that the coalition humiliated authorities with recent attacks before Khartoum this week ordered the closure of the pipeline carrying South Sudan’s crude for export.