February 18, 2014 (JUBA) – Sources from the South Sudanese rebels claimed to have recaptured much of the strategic oil-rich town of Malakal on Tuesday morning, adding that the whole state capital will be under their full control in a matter of hours.
- SPLA forces in the flashpoint town of Malakal in Upper Nile state (Reuters)
The sources further claimed Ugandan warplanes from Juba, the South Sudanese capital launched air attacks against the rebels around the Upper Nile state capital.
A Sudan Tribune reporter in the South Sudan capital said he saw military jet fighters on Tuesday taking off from Juba Airport and headed towards Malakal, a strategic town located 497km north-east of Juba.
“Our positions came under attacks by the government forces outside Malakal this morning and we had to strike back and pushed them back into Malakal. We have now recaptured about 70% of Malakal city and moving on,” said a military commander around Malakal who preferred anonymity because he was unauthorised to speak on behalf of the rebels.
Philip Aguer, the South Sudanese army (SPLA) spokesperson told Sudan Tribune that Malakal has, since Tuesday morning, been a scene of intense ongoing clashes.
"We do not have full information at the moment, but we shall know the clear information in the next three hours", Aguer said by phone and blamed the attack on forces loyal to South Sudan’s former vice-president, Riek Machar.
Toby Lanzer, the United Nations humanitarian coordinator in South Sudan confirmed the outbreak of hostilities in Malakal between rebels and government troops.
"All parties engaged in the violence must uphold people’s rights and protect non-combatants," he tweeted Tuesday.