December 18, 2013 (BOR) – Key military installations in Jonglei state’s Bor county came under heavy attack on Tuesday, forcing out hundreds of soldiers loyal to South Sudanese president Salva Kiir’s government to flee.
- SPLA soldiers prepare to leave Bor for Pibor County, September 25, 2012 (ST)
The attack, which occurred between 1am and 3.30am (local time) in the Pan-pandiar army (SPLA) headquarters and Malual-chaat military camps around Bor, was reportedly launched by mutinying forces led by Gen. Peter Gadet Yaak.
An army source, who is currently on the run, told Sudan Tribune that Gadet forces had taken control of heavy artilleries and tanks in Pan-pandiar.
“They have defeated us. We were outnumbered. We ran away from Pan-pandiar, some are in the bush and some are now going to Pariak. We shall see where he (Gadet) will move to in the morning”, the soldier said.
Another source said shooting began about 1am when Gadet forces began firing on the military compound at Pan-pandiar. Two high ranking officials from the Dinka tribe are suspected to have been killed in the attack.
The source said SPLA soldiers at the barracks had come under heavy fire from artilleries, tanks, motor bombs and rocket launchers.
“They first targeted places where highly ranking officers reside. I did not see any of them escaping. I tried to ask their body guards but nobody seemed to have knowledge about their whereabouts”, he added.
The source said residents of the nearby Pan-pandiar village, located next to the military barracks had fled to a nearby forest. It is believed that some civilians may have been caught up in the cross-fire.
Phillip Aguer, the army spokesperson confirmed the incident when contacted by Sudan Tribune on Wednesday.
“Yes, some clashes took place last night in Malualchat army base located south of Bor”, Aguer said by phone, without providing further details.
Gunfire was also reported in Bor slum area Ci-Nuer-Ben, largely inhabited by members of the Nuer tribe.
Pakuau, a key road junction that leads to the capital Juba and Pibor, including the airport, reportedly experienced rampant shooting throughout the night and continuing until Wednesday morning.
Many Bor residents fled their homes during the night amid safety fears, but were unable to access the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) compound for protection as the roads were too dangerous to pass.
“We are now moving toward Malou and Leng-guet, we don’t know what will happen next in Bor”, said Ajang Thuch, who lives on a block near Ci-Nuer-ben.
The latest incidents in Jonglei followed the killing of three people from the Dinka Bor ethnic group on Monday, which authorities say is related to infighting among the country’s army which began late on Sunday evening in Juba.
Hundreds of troops deployed around Bor from Pan-pandiar and believed to be under the command of Gadet had not yet shown aggression towards civilians.
However, South Sudanese military intelligence official Gabriel Ajak confirmed to Sudan Tribune that Gadet was behind the military raid and shooting in Bor, saying he had escaped to Kolnyang payam (district) about 25kms from Pan-pandiar, where he is now reorganising his forces.
“Gadet is the man behind all these messes. He escaped in a convoy of five military land cruisers, including jeeps, to Kolnyang. He will be operating from there”, said Ajak by telephone while preparing to evacuate his family from Bor.
Gadet has long been fighting SPLA forces from his bases in the bush. In 2012, he led a division which carried out a disarmament campaign against rebels loyal to David Yau Yau.
There are unconfirmed reports that are number of soldiers and civilians were killed in the night shooting in Bor, although Ajak said he had no information on the figures.
Phillip Thon Nyok, a lawmaker from the state, said at least three children drowned last night as their parents attempted to cross the River Nile.
Unrest has been building in and around Bor, following Sunday evening’s attack on an SPLA barracks in Juba in what president Kiir has described as an attempted coup by forces loyal to former vice-president Riek Machar.
Bor residents say people are dividing along tribal lines, reflecting how the sporadic shooting in Juba is being interpreted.