KHARTOUM, Sudan -- This African nation declared a state of emergency Sunday in areas bordering South Sudan, giving authorities wide powers of arrest a day after they detained three foreigners in a flashpoint town along the frontier.
The detentions and state of emergency heightened tensions even further between the old rivals, who in the past month came to the brink of all-out war because of renewed fighting in disputed areas.
Sudanese officials have accused South Sudan of using foreign fighters during its assault on the oil-rich Heglig region, which Sudan claims. Southern troops briefly captured the area, amid rising international concerns of an escalation in the fighting between the two countries.
Sudanese army spokesman Col. Sawarmy Khaled claimed on state television late Saturday that four people arrested in the Heglig region, a Briton, a Norwegian, a South African and a South Sudanese, had military backgrounds. He alleged they were carrying out military activities in Heglig, and the arrests prove his government's claims that South Sudan uses foreign fighters.
But a representative for one of the three said Sunday that they were on a humanitarian mine-clearing mission.
South Sudan split from Sudan in July last year, but the two countries have yet to agree on border demarcation and divvying up oil revenues and resources.
South Sudan invaded Heglig earlier this month, saying it belonged to the south. Sudan then retook the town; Sudanese forces say they pushed out the South Sudanese; South Sudan says its troops pulled out to avoid an all-out war. Sudan elevated the tension even further by bombing South Sudan.
In Oslo, a Norwegian humanitarian organization said Sunday that one of its employees, John Soerboe, 50. was detained while on a five-day mine-clearing mission in southern Sudan with the Briton and the South African. The group denied he was on a military mission and said he had been working for more than seven years to clear the region of mines.
Britain's Foreign Office confirmed a British national had been detained and said it was "urgently investigating" the details of the arrests.
The South African Foreign Ministry said it was following up on reports of the arrest of a South African in a mine clearing detail.