October 26, 2011 (KHARTOUM) – Relatively new Chinese weapons have been seized from rebel groups in South Sudan, according to the Small Arms Survey research organisation.
- ’125 newly manufactured Chinese Type-56-1 assault rifles (copy of the Russian AKS-47), seized by SPLA forces during fighting in Riyak payam, Mayom county, Unity state. Identical rifles were in the possession of Gadet’s soldiers in videos posted on the Internet. The SPLA also seized identical rifles from Athor’s forces in Jonglei state in the same month.’ (Small Arms Survey)
Arms captured from rebel fighters loyal to both Peter Gadet and George Athor included Chinese Type-56-1 assault rifles. South Sudan has repeatedly accused Khartoum of backing southern rebels in an attempt to destabilise the oil-rich nation, which became independent in July.
Khartoum denies that it arms rebels in South Sudan.
However, the fact that large number of the same weapons were seized from both groups indicates that the arms could have been acquired from outside South Sudan, a recent Small Arms Survey (SAS) report says.
Since Gadet’s spokesperson posted videos on the internet showing off their new Chinese Type-56-1 assault rifles in June, Gadet has given up his armed insurgency and rejoined the South Sudanese army (SPLA).
The video, according to the SAS report, shows ’hundreds of Gadet’s fighters at an undisclosed location—likely in Mayom county, Unity state—wielding what appear to be mint-condition Chinese Type-56-1 assault rifles.’
The quantity of new weapons in the video is unusual for non-state groups in South Sudan, the Geneva-based research organisation says, adding that it is continuing clarify the origin of the weapons and how they got into the hands of rebel groups in South Sudan.
Despite an amnesty offer from South Sudan’s president, Athor, who rebelled after loosing his bid to became governor of Jonglei state in 2010, has not rejoined the SPLA. Athor is the most senior figure to have rebelled against the Juba government, having once been a minister in South Sudan’s cabinet.
’Between February and March 2011 the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) engaged militarily with George Athor’s forces on multiple occasions. In clashes along the border of Upper Nile and Jonglei states in March 2011 the army seized anti-tank mines, assault rifles, light and heavy machine guns, rocket-propelled grenade (RPG) launchers, and their requisite ammunition,’ says the SAS report published on 20 October.
The Small Arms Survey witnessed the materiel seized from Gadet’s forces in Bentui in April this year, after the SPLA captured the weapons on 17 March during fighting in Riyak payam [district] of Mayom county. Mayom county, which is in the western part Unity state was where Gadet based his South Sudan Liberation Army in his aborted attempt to overthrow the Juba government.
The Small Arms Survey also documented: ’Four relatively new Chinese-manufactured Type-80 general-purpose machine guns (copy of the Russian PKM), seized by SPLA forces during fighting in Riyak payam, Mayom county, Unity state. Identical models were seized from Athor’s forces in Jonglei state in the same month.’
The report also found that ammunition seized from Athor’s forces was identical to rounds bearing the same lot number from Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF) forces in Somalia in September 2010.
The ONLF are reported to have been supplied by Eritrea. The report said that the discovery raises ’questions about possible Eritrean relationships with Khartoum and/or Athor.’
Ammunition, which the Small Arms Survey believes was produced in Sudan was seized ’in large numbers from Athor’s forces in Phom Zeraf, Jonglei state and from Gadet’s forces in Riyak Payam, Mayom county, Unity state. Sudanese government forces in Darfur have used similar varieties bearing different headstamps.’
Photos of the seized weapons from South Sudan rebels.