January 23, 2014 (RUMBEK) - Authorities in Lakes state’s Yirol West county say three police officers were admitted to hospital after a gunfight with army deserters loyal to former vice-president Riek Machar on Wednesday.
The incident occurred about 9am (local time) in Kal-thok, located in south-west of Awerial county when rebels clashed with a police unit on patrol.
Yirol West County commissioner Majak Ruei Angong said that deserters had fled the capital, Juba, and gone into hiding in the surrounding Jabel-Lado area.
He said the South Sudanese army (SPLA) had launched an attack on Jabel-Lado on Tuesday night, after discovering the rebel hideout.
Rebel deserters had then fled the area towards Lakes state, with the aim of crossing into Unity state along the River Nile.
Angong said the Lakes state government was well prepared to protect its civilians, with the army patrolling areas along the suspected route to Unity state.
He added that civilians also stood ready to protect their payams and bomas (districts) if necessary.
Cross-border cattle raiding between Lakes and Unity states continues to be a major source of unrest and violence in the region.
Angong maintained that Kal-thok was not under attack from rebels or government troops, but had been caught up as they sought a way along the River Nile to cross into Unity state.
“We (SPLA) have fought them and now they (rebels) are being hunting (sic) them down one by one along the Nile”, he said, adding the displaced people from neighbouring Jonglei state sheltering at Guol-Yar had been relocated to Bunagok.
He said this would allow bushes to be cleared around Awerial and the banks of the Nile in order for SPLA soldiers to better track the movements of rebels.
According to Angong, fleeing rebels had also stolen a solar panel and long-range radio used for military communication in Kal-thok.
Other stolen items such as food have also been discarded along the Nile as rebels fled their pursuers.
“We are not happy with those rebels; we need that radio communication back and [we are] confident none of those rebels will cross Lakes into Unity state”, he said.
Lakes state Governor Maj-Gen Matur Chut Dhuol has temporarily relocated his office to Yirol West county to monitor the security situation in the three counties of Greater Yirol, composed of Awerial, Yirol West and Yirol East.