November 21, 2012 (KAMPALA/BOR) - At least 19 militias and one South Sudan army (SPLA) soldier died on Monday, when the two forces clashed in Pibor County of South Sudan’s Jonglei State, the military said.
- A South Sudan’s army soldier (Reuters)
The incident in Linkwangule Payam [district], according to the SPLA’s spokesperson, started on Monday night, when a group composed of about 50 militias loyal to renegade David Yau Yau, stormed a United Nations compound in Linkwangule, and requested them to evacuate the area before 10AM Tuesday.
“While they were communicating with UNMISS [UN Mission in South Sudan], the rest of their forces were deploying along the river in an attempt to block the SPLA forces from the water,” Phillip Aguer told Sudan Tribune by phone.
“In the morning of 19 [November] the dug some trenches along the river, between the river and the SPLA base. When the SPLA soldier tried to move along the river side in the morning, they were short at by the militias and they also started firing back,” he added.
The incident, he said, escalated during the day, forcing the SPLA to make a counter attack, prompting the militias to withdraw from the area.
“During a mop-up exercise, the SPLA found 19 bodies of the militias. It was first 15 and then another four were found on the grass. The SPLA captured two pieces of mortars [60mm], two RPG 7, 6 AK-47 rifles and one piece of FN gun,” he said
The army, he added, lost one soldier in action, while four of them were wounded during the clashes.
He, however, said the SPLA remains in control of Linkwangule, trying to ensure the area is safe for both the civil population and its forces carrying out a state-wide civilian disarmament campaign that began in March following large scale clashes between rival cattle herding groups almost a year ago.
Yau Yau initially started his rebellion following his failed attempt to become a member of the Jonglei State Legislative Assembly in South Sudan’s 2010 elections, but later laid down arms in 2011 following an amnesty extended by South Sudan President, Salva Kiir.
The rebel leader, according to the SPLA, defected to Khartoum in April last year, and re-launched another rebellion against the Juba government four months later. Sudan denies aiding rebels in South Sudan but an unidentified air drop was made in September in a remote part of Pibor County, witnessed by the UN and SPLA.