August 20, 2011 (JUBA) - The South Sudan army on Saturday accused Khartoum of involvement in clashes where 60 fighters have been killed in a confrontation involving the South’s Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) and armed rebel groups, in Upper Nile state.
- FILE - An SPLA soldier smokes a cigarette during a break at Nabanga, south Sudan, April 12, 2008 (AFP)
More than 43 fighters are reported to have sustained injuries on Saturday in fighting which broke out in Kaka County, Upper Nile state, between the SPLA and forces allegedly loyal to renegade General George Athor and another militia leader Gordon Koang.
Two fighters identified as members of the rebel groups were reportedly captured as the SPLA managed to retake territory back from rebel groups.
Speaking to Sudan Tribune in Juba the SPLA spokesperson Colonel Phillip Aguer Panyang, said that South Sudan’s army had repulsed the rebel groups from the Alal area of Kaka county.
Aguer estimated that the rebels were about 5,000 strong and were able to overrun a SPLA platoon stationed in the area and advance into Kaka town where they were repulsed.
“They overpowered the platoon stationed in the area and advanced to Kaka town but they have been repulsed this afternoon. They are no longer in the area now. Our forces have taken it”, he said.
He said 53 bodies belonging to the rebel groups were found in the outskirts of the town after the fighting, while the South Sudan army lost 7 soldiers and 22 others sustained injuries.
The senior military officer added that they had seized some weapons from the rebel groups and are reinforcing their presence in the area.
He accused Khartoum of backing the rebel groups to destabilise the security of South Sudan, which became independent in July.
“It is very clear that the government in Khartoum is the one arming and training and providing logistical support to these militia groups. The intention is destabilise the South Sudan" he said.
Abiel Riing Majak, a senior member of the rebel group confirmed that the fighting took place but claimed that they had killed more than 75 SPLA soldiers and injured several others. He also claimed his forces taken 8 SPLA fighters as prisoners.
“Our forces have taken Kaka this morning from the SPLA forces. They also captured 8 members of the SPLA and killed more than 75 of them and are now advancing toward Melut”, he said.
South Sudan’s president Salva Kiir offered an amnesty to all armed groups in the nascent country during his inauguration speech of July 9th. So far some of the rebel groups have accepted his amnesty but most refused to take up the offer.
Most of the groups sprung up after disputed elections last year. Khartoum routinely denies South Sudan’s claims that it is backing rebel groups.