December 24, 2013 (LONDON) – Forces loyal to the former vice president, Riek Machar, have reportedly captured Malakal, the capital of the oil rich Upper Nile state, making three the strategic states the rebels controlled in the last one week since the violence began.
- SPLA soldiers march during a parade at the 4th anniversary celebration of the signing of the CPA in the southern town of Malakal January 9, 2009. (Reuters)
Several residents in Malakal town said heavy fighting erupted in the morning hours of Tuesday and by evening the rebels took full control of the city.
Several official of the state government have sought refuge in the compound of the United Nations Mission in South Sudan in the town. The whereabouts of the governor, Simon Kun Puoch, is not known.
The spokesperson of South Sudan army (SPLA) Phillip Aguer confirmed the outbreak of fighting in Malakal on Tuesday, but gave no details about the clashes.
The situation was now calm and residents have now gone back to their normal businesses, eyewitnesses say.
Another source close to the rebels also confirmed to Sudan Tribune the capture of Malakal by his forces. He said the military command in charge was preparing to issue a statement to the media over the situation.
The rebel who claim control most of the state counties, indicated that the clashes continue in counties that have not yet surrendered including the oil rich Melut county where Falluj oilfields are situated.
In statements on Tuesday to the Financial Times, SPLA chief of the general staff, James Hoth Mai said that Malakal was witnessing heavy fighting.
"We have problems in (the) Upper Nile (where) there is still fighting – we don’t know what is happening we are going also to fix (this),” Hoth said.
Further reports from Malakal say the governor Simon Kun Puoch sought protection in the UN compound in the capital of the Upper Nile state.