S. Sudan army capture rebel-held town in Upper Nile

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The South Sudanese army (SPLA) said it regained more territory from the rebels on Monday when it claimed to have recaptured another town in Upper Nile state, pushing the latter towards the Sudanese border after clashes on Sunday.

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The South Sudanese army (SPLA) spokesperson, Phillip Aguer (Photo: AFP/Getty Images)
The South Sudanese army (SPLA) spokesperson, Phillip Aguer (Photo: AFP/Getty Images)

The army spokesperson, Colonel Philip Aguer, said on Monday that government forces in the area repulsed attack allegedly carried out by the rebels on their positions and took control of all areas east of the contested Manyo county of Shilluk Kingdom, including Gabat which the opposition forces also claimed to have taken from pro-government forces on Sunday.

Upper Nile state’s information minister, Peter Hoth Tuach, said he received reports from the local command and county authorities informing him of newdevelopments in the area.

“The rebels of Riek Machar have lost another important town to the government forces following clashes which erupted yesterday [Sunday]. Today [Monday] rebels were finally defeated from Gabat town, east of Manyo county in northern Upper Nile state,” he told Sudan Tribune on Monday.

He added, “According to SPLA command at the battle field and which has been confirmed by the county commissioner and others, the rebels have left behind their T-55 tank after they were inflicted with heavy defeat.”

He described as “high” the moral of government forces and local population in the area.

“The morale of our forces is high. They took the town which is another place for the rebels,” he said.

The armed opposition is yet to officially react to claims from the pro-government officials.

The renewed clashes also occurred in violation of the existing cessation of hostilities agreement signed since 23 January 2014 by the two warring parties.

Meanwhile mediators of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) struggle to revive the peace process which collapsed on 6 March by seeking to expand the mediation effort.

KIIR’S GUARDS INVOLVE IN UPPER NILE OFFENSIVE

After the lost of Wedakona by he SPLM-in Opposition, government official said that a force from the special presidential guards division participated in this week’s offensive to retake the town which is located in the northern part of the state.

The rebels claimed thousands of government troops and local allied militia groups of General Oliny plus foreign Ugandan forces and rebels from Darfur also involved in the latest assault on the town when they attacked opposition forces from different directions.

Wedakona town is the administrative headquarters of Manyo county inhabited by the ethnic Shilluk population.

However, pro-government’s Manyo county commissioner, Rajab Deng Ajak, denied involvement of Ugandan troops in the offensive, saying all involved were pro-government groups.

Ajak, a member of the Shilluk community, further explained that president Kiir’s own bodyguards, also known as Tiger Division, were among different groups of the pro-government troops that participated in the joint attack on the town.

He also revealed that the pro-government Cobra faction of the Murle forces previously based in Pibor county in Jonglei state also involved in the Upper Nile offensive.

“In Wadakona there are forces of the 1st Division, the Cobra, and Buffalo and Tiger and Aguelek – those are the forces that attacked Wadakona,” the official told Radio Tamazuj.

Tiger Division, named after forces president Kiir used to command during the 21 years of war with Khartoum, was also blamed for the massacre of thousands of ethnic Nuer civilians in the capital, Juba, when the war broke out in mid-December 2013.

Sources said majority of the government troops from different army divisions and states in the country have been deployed to the Upper Nile region which has become the theatre of the endless battles for over one year now.

Observers say the involvement of the presidential guards in the offensive may indicate how Juba has been exhausting its other regular forces for the last one year.

They also say rebel forces who also fail to recapture major towns however seem to have put stiff resistance against the government and threaten to take the guerilla war to the other two relatively peaceful regions of Bahr el Ghazal and Equatoria with new attacks reported in Western Bahr el Ghazal state last week.

 

(Source: Sudan Tribune)

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