January 14, 2014 (NAIROBI/JUBA) – Claims by rebel forces loyal to South Sudan’s former vice-president, Riek Machar that they captured Malakal, the capital of the oil-rich Upper Nile state on Tuesday have been dismissed by the army (SPLA).
- SPLA forces in the flashpoint town of Malakal in Upper Nile state (Reuters)
Machar’s press secretary James Gatdet Dak told Sudan Tribune that pro-Machar’s forces captured the town after fierce fighting with government forces.
“Malakal is now under the full control of the pro-democracy forces,” he said, adding that rebels were now combing surrounding counties in pursuit of government forces.
But a military source at the army headquarters in Juba dismissed the rebel claims as "untrue" and "mere propaganda" while Sudan Tribune’s repeated efforts to reach the army’s spokesperson Phillip Aguer for a reaction were unsuccessful.
UN CONFIRMS CLASHES
The United Nations confirmed intense fighting in and around Malakal on Tuesday as the numbers of civilians seeking protection at its base reportedly soared from 10,000 to 19,000.
The UN further said it received reports of a boat carrying a large number of civilians capsizing on Sunday in the White Nile River between Malakal and Lelo in Upper Nile.
"The civilians were reportedly fleeing fighting in the area. The mission is seeking to verify reports of casualties", it said in a statement issued Tuesday.
More details on the military situation in Upper Nile will follow shortly