The church in Khartoum’s Al-Jiraif district was built on a disputed plot of land but the Saturday night incident was almost certainly part of the fallout from ongoing hostilities between Sudan and South Sudan over control of an oil town on their ill-defined border.
Last week, South Sudanese troops seized Heglig, which the southerners call Panthou, sending Sudanese troops fleeing. The Khartoum government later claimed to have regained the town.
The witnesses and several newspapers said a mob of several hundred shouting insults at southerners torched the church.
The mostly Christian and animist South Sudan seceded from Sudan in 2011, some six years after a peace deal ended more than two decades of war between the two sides.
But tens of thousands of southerners remain in Sudan, a legacy of the civil war that drove hundreds of thousands of them to seek relative safety in the north of what was then a single Sudanese nation.