December 28, 2013 (BENTIU) - Defected fourth division commander in Unity state Maj. Gen. James Koang Chuol has warned Sudanese rebels against becoming involved in South Sudanese affairs.
- Fighters with Sudan’s Justice and Equality (JEM) Movement in al-Fasher, northern Darfur, on July 25, 2011 (Ashraf Shazly AFP/Getty)
In an interview with Sudan Tribune on Saturday, Koang confirmed presence of Sudanese rebels from the Justices and Equality Movement (JEM) in Parieng county.
He says he received reports from his troops on the ground that JEM fighters had come down from Nuba Mountains and are currently occupying Parieng after Juba blocked their supply route from Unity state.
“Yes, we received report that they [JEM] want to interfere. This evening we received a report from Parieng because it is not under our control. We learned that they came out from Nuba Mountain and and attacked”, said Koang.
The defected general has ordered the Sudanese rebels to leave the area within two days otherwise his troops will launch military action, saying the current conflict on South Sudan does not concern them.
“These are the Southerners fighting themselves no need for involvement for other people”, Koang emphasised.
An aid agency worker in Yida refugee camp who spoke on condition of anonymity, told Sudan Tribune that he had seen JEM rebels with heavy armoured vehicles and ammunitions passing through the refugee camp on their way to Parieng on Friday.
Koang announced on Saturday evening that his forces had repulsed an attack from government troops and militia loyal to Maj.Gen. Pul Jang. He said over 26 armoured vehicles, as well as heavy weaponry was captured from troops belonging to the former rebel group South Sudan Liberation Army (SSLA), while two tanks were also captured from government forces.
He confirmed over 50 soldiers from both government and SSLA troops had been killed, while many others had also surrendered.
Unity is the second state to fall to anti-government forces, with Jonglei state capital Bor also falling under rebel control after conflict erupted in the country earlier this month.
Forces led by Koang, who have aligned themselves with former vice-president Riek Machar, seized Unity capital Bentiu and other parts of the northern region on 21 December, with oil production shut down last week as the security situation deteriorated.
Fighting broke out in the South Sudan capital, Juba, on 15 December following a dispute between members of the Nuer and Dinka tribes in the presidential guard.
President Salva Kiir has accused Machar and his supporters of orchestrating an alleged coup attempt to overthrow his government.
The UN says at least 1,000 people have died in the ensuing violence, which has led to increased ethnic tensions across the country.