South Sudan's President has accused his northern neighbour of declaring war but soldiers in this region scarred by recent battles say they are simply defending their borders.

“If we want to go to the South now we can... but that is not our plan,” said Zaki Al Ahmad, a fast-talking member of the Popular Defence Force (PDF), at a collection of straw huts serving as their base in this oil region about 15 km from the disputed border.

“We are just defending our property. We don't want to attack them,” said one bearded fighter, speaking four days after Sudan announced its troops forced out South Sudanese who had occupied the north's main oilfield of Heglig for 10 days.

The South, however, said its troops withdrew in a process that ended on Sunday.

“Welcome to liberated Heglig. God bless the martyrs who spilled their blood,” announced a crewman aboard an aircraft flying in journalists on a four-hour government run trip to the region which is normally off-limits to reporters.

A village near the airport has been almost completely burned to the ground.

Sudan has demanded that the South recognise the borders which existed at Sudan's independence from Britain and Egypt on January 1, 1956.

Over the frontier in South Sudan's Unity state, Sudanese warplanes left several people wounded from air strikes that continued into the early hours of Tuesday, the State's Governor Taban Deng said.

United States Secretary of State Hillary Clinton denounced the air raids as “provocative and unacceptable”, and South Sudan's President Salva Kiir accused Sudan of declaring war.

“We don't like war,” the Sudanese armed forces commander, Kamal Marouf, said in Heglig.

A manager at the damaged main oil facility, Ibrahim Yousif Gamil, said there were actually fewer troops now than in recent days.

“The presence of the army is to the minimum now,” he said.

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