Sudan Tribune
March 17, 2014 (JUBA) – The South Sudanese army said it repulsed on Monday a rebel attempt to extend their control to other areas outside Malakal, the capital of oil-producing Upper Nile state.

Heavy gunfire raged on Monday morning for more than two hours on the outskirts of Malakal, between the South Sudanese army and the rebel SPLM-In Opposition, residents and military officers told Sudan Tribune.

Eyewitness said that explosions were heard to the south and west of the town, where the army claimed it repulsed attempts by rebel forces to move out the town, located about 497km north of the country’s capital, Juba.

“We are fighting the rebel just three kilometres North West of the town. They moved out on Sunday but they were beaten back”, Colonel Philip Aguer, the spokesman of the South Sudanese army, told Sudan tribune on Monday.

Aguer said that government troops had repulsed similar attacks from the rebels in Leer County in Unity state on March 14, as well as Mankien in Jonglei state.

“The sound of heavy gunfire and what sounds like RPGs [Rocket Propelled Grenades] began at around 9:15 a.m. and carried until about 10:28 am yesterday,” a resident of Malakal town told Sudan Tribune from the United Nations camp where thousands are seeking protection.

“The fighting was happening in two different places. Sounds were heavy guns and explosions were coming from the direction pointing south and west of the town. It was not far”, he said.

REBELS DENY

The SPLM-In-Opposition denied that their forces attacked new positions outside Malakal and accused the army of launching an attack to recapture the town, which has been under rebel control since 18 February.

Reacting to Aguer, James Gatdet Dak, the spokesperson for the former vice-president, Riek Machar said that government’s forces launched an offensive against their forces at a place called Khor Nyingara, located north of Malakal town.

“They were attempting to break that barrier towards Malakal but were defeated and ran back to Akoka county”, he told Sudan Tribune.

Dak further accused the government of trying to retake control of the strategic oil-rich state capital before the IGAD troops the South Sudanese leadership has invited could deploy in the state.

The two warring parties in South Sudan signed a cessation of hostilities agreement committing themselves to stop the fighting which started on 15 December last year, but it remains largely unimplemented.

An estimated 10,000 people have been killed in the violence, which erupted three months ago in Juba, before spreading out to key strategic towns and areas.

The rebellion was borne out of the political differences within the governing Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM), the former rebel group that has governed South Sudan since a peace deal in 2005 secured independence six years later.

Since the conflict erupted in Juba in mid-December, it has spread to Jonglei and shortly after to the key oil-producing states of Unity and Upper Nile.

South Sudan relies on oil revenues for nearly 90% of its income.

Soldiers from South Sudan’s army patrol the streets of Malakal in the Upper Nile State of South Sudan on December 31, 2013 (AFP)

(ST)

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