March 6, 2013 (BOR) - South Sudan’s army (SPLA) said Wednesday that it has killed 28 rebel fighters during fighting in the Khong-khong area of Jonglei state’s, Pibor county, which began on Saturday.
- SPLA soldiers prepare to leave Bor for Pibor County, September 25, 2012 (ST)
Speaking to UN radio in Juba, military spokesman, Colonel Philip Aguer, said the fighting began when SPLA soldiers fell into an ambush laid by the forces of rebel leader David Yau Yau.
Aguer said that 10 soldiers sustained injuries but added that the exact numbers of wounded were still uncertain.
South Sudan’s army has stated that it is determined to clear Yau Yau’s forces out of Pibor county, where he has based his insurgency since 2010 when he lost his bid to become a state-level MP. In 2011 Yauyau joined the SPLA but rebelled again in April 2012 with the help of the Sudanese government, according Juba.
Local sources from Pibor say that large numbers of SPLA soldiers were killed during Saturday’s ambush, although this has not yet been acknowledged by the army.
“What we know here is that we our army lost the fight on Monday. The few who arrived said they had incurred heavy losses”, said one of the eyewitnesses in Pibor who claimed to have met some of the SPLA’s wounded.
"The fight did not take long, we hard sound of rocket launchers and mortar bombs and in about 10 minutes time, they fighting stopped and few hours later, the wounded were brought, some in bad conditions”, he continued.
Last month, the SPLA moved extra troops into Pibor to hunt the rebel leader David Yau Yau and his forces who have been blamed for attacks on civilians in Akobo, Uror, Nyirol, Duk, Pibor Twic East and Bor counties among others.
According to South Sudan’s vice president, on his most recent visit to Jonglei in mid February, the government is responding to the high levels of insecurity in Jonglei by sending in a “sizeable number of SPLA soldiers” to clear Yau Yau before seasonal rains begin in April or May making travel and movement in the area extremely difficult.
Members of the Murle ethnic group, from whom Yauyau has recruited young men for his rebellion, have been warned to move to Pibor county’s towns to avoid being caught in the crossfire between the SPLA and the rebels.
Cattle raids and retaliatory violence between the Murle and surrounding ethnic groups, including the Luo Nuer and Dinka Bor have killed over 2,000 people in the last two years.
A civilian disarmament campaign, which began in March 2012 has had limited success in ending the violence with many Jonglei communities complaining that they have been left vulnerable by handing over their weapons while others have not.
Human rights groups say that the SPLA’s heavy handed tactics and ill-treatment of the civilian population has allowed dissent to ferment in Jonglei. Yauyau’s forces have been blamed for a cattle raid in February that killed over 100 people in Akobo county.