Sudan Tribune

January 26, 2017 (JUBA) – A South Sudanese army (SPLA) official claimed on Thursday that its forces clashed with the armed opposition forces (SPLM-IO) loyal to the country’s former First Vice President, Riek Machar.

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A member of South Sudanese rebel patrols the streets of Malakal, on March 4, 2014 (Photo AFP/Andrei Pungovschi)

The acting SPLA spokesman, Santo Domic Chol claimed the two rival forces clashed near Malakal, the Upper Nile state capital.

Chol told the Associated Press that government forces were attacked Wednesday by militias under Johnson Olony’s command.

He neither gave details on the exact location where the clashes occurred nor unveil information on any casualties from the incident.

Olony could not, however, be reached for a comment.

Local officials told Sudan Tribune they heard sounds of gunfire from the direction of Lul area, which is located north of Malakal town.

Residents did not know the source of the gunfire or those involved.

“We heard sounds of guns in the morning at around 11:30 am. It was not heavy change of gunfire. We heard twice and it stopped. We don’t know who was involved or what caused the shooting. We don’t know whether it is a clash between the government and rebel forces or it was just normal shooting by some government soldiers or police personnel,” a state lawmaker said.

The U.N. mission in South Sudan, which runs a base in the area, is yet to confirm the incident. Some of its staff, however, say the area has been relatively calm since the beginning of the year.

South Sudan has experience violence since December 2013 when political disagreements between President Salva Kiir and Machar saw the nation split along ethnic lines. Tens of thousands of people have been killed and millions displaced in South Sudan’s worst ever outbreak of violence since independence from neighbouring Sudan.