February 23, 2014 (JUBA) – South Sudan army said Sunday that it repulsed attack on Gadiang - about 80 km north of the Jonglei state capital Bor - on Sunday, while the rebels claimed that they had taken control of the area.
- Rebel fighters greet one another in a rebel camp in Jonglei State February 1, 2014 (REUTERS/Goran Tomasevic)
"Our force repulsed rebels near Gadiang this morning", army spokesman Philip Aguer told Sudan Tribune by phone Sunday without giving further details.
Sources from Bor, which some 200 km north of capital Juba, said at least 30 wounded soldiers from the clashes are being treated in Bor hospital.
However, the spokesperson for the rebels Brig. Gen. Lul Koang released a statement claiming that forces led by Maj. Gen. Dor Maan-jur had "liberated Gadiang" from troops loyal to South Sudanese President Salva Kiir.
Maj. Gen. Maan-jur is operating under the overall command of Maj. Gen. Peter Gatdet Yak, who led a mass defection from the South Sudanese army (SPLA) just days after fighting broke out in Juba between members of the Presidential Guard loyal to President Kiir and supporters of former Vice President Riek Machar.
Similar defections in Unity and Upper Nile states followed Gadet’s lead plunging South Sudan into devastating conflict that has already killed thousands and displaced over 700,000 within the nascent nation and almost 150,000 to neighbouring countries.
The rebels - known as the SPLM/A-in-Opposition also claimed to have marched on Akoka in Upper Nile state, allegedly to preempt government plans to destroy nearby oil facilities.
In a statement the rebels said that "forces under the command of Maj. Gen. Gathoth Gatkuoth made more territory gains by capturing Akoka County 80km north of Malakal town in oil rich Upper Nile."
In a separate statement, Koang also accused the government forces of resorting to looting the facilities in the oilfield of Paloich in fear of imminent attacks as Akoko is closer to the oilfields.
Oil workers were also being evacuated from the country’s main oilfield which produces about 70% of the production countrywide.
The rebel spokesperson said that their "forces are in still in Malakal" and had "beefed up security and strengthened our defensive positions around the town".
Koang denied reports that SPLM/A-in-Opposition forces had withdrawn from Malakal town.
After initial denials the government admitted that it "withdrawn tactically" from Malakal the capital of oil producing Upper Nile state on Wednesday after it was attacked by rebel forces.
Opposition forces deny triggering the attack on Malakal early this week saying they were merely defending themselves and filled the vacuum left by the SPLA as they retreated.