January 10, 2014 (JUBA) - The South Sudanese army (SPLA) has recaptured Unity state capital, Bentiu from rebel control, the military spokesperson said on Friday.
- South Sudan army troops in South Sudan (IRIN/Hannah McNeish)
“I can confirm to you that the SPLA is now in full control of Bentiu, which was under the control of the rebels. It was recaptured at about 2:30pm today [Friday]”, Phillip Aguer told Sudan Tribune by phone.
He said the army would first carry out an assessment of the area before further details on casualties involved during the clashes can be made public.
Sudan Tribune was unable to obtain confirmation from rebels on the army’s victory.
Bentiu fell under rebel control after Maj.Gen. James Koang, the military fourth division commander defected on 21 December and declared his opposition to forces loyal to President Salva Kiir.
The dissident general later assumed governorship of Unity state, establishing an interim administration and appointed a new speaker of the state assembly speaker as well as county commissioners.
Fighting erupted in the country’s capital, Juba in mid-December after a dispute between the president guards, later spreading to other states, mainly Jonglei, Unity and Upper Nile.
Fear that South Sudan’s military could soon retake Bentiu from a faction of the army that defected over two weeks ago led to thousands of civilians to flee the area.
Over 8,000 people reportedly took refuge at a United Nations base in Bentiu, the UN’s top humanitarian coordinator in South Sudan, Toby Lanzer, said on Wednesday. Also, over 60,000 people are reportedly sheltering in UN bases in Juba, Bor and other parts of the country.