February 25, 2014 (ADDIS ABABA) – South Sudan rebels military spokesperson, Brig Lul Ruai, has categorically denied reports that the opposition forces attacked Duk county, north of Bor town in Jonglei state.
Philip Thon Leek, a lawmaker representing Duk county in Juba told Sudan Tribune that rebels loyal to the former vice president, Riek Machar, had destroyed Duk county headquarters on Monday.
"They are destroying buildings, schools and [Duk] county headquarters," Leek said in an interview on Monday, adding that two civilians were killed during Sunday’s attack.
"They torched houses of the local residents. They (rebels) were intentionally trying to reinforce their front in Gadiang, which was dismantled yesterday. And I think when they heard that, they bent their anger on the local people in Duk County," the MP said.
According to the lawmaker, at least 43,000 villagers were forced out of their homes in Mareng, Ager and Payuel payams (districts) as fighting continued on Monday.
However officials in Bor told Sudan Tribune on Wednesday that over 68,000 villagers fled their areas and now heading to Twic East county after Monday attacks.
But the rebels spokesperson, Brig Lul Ruai, dismissed the claim by the county MP, saying Duk county was attacked by the defeated and fleeing SPLA soldiers from Gadiang military base who had mistaken Dinka villages in the bordering Duk county for Nuer villages.
"The truth is that SPLA forces and their allies retreating from Gadiang mistook Mareng for a Nuer village and hence torched it," Ruai explained.
"This is because the people of Duk county share many similarities with the Nuer including; the same scarification, cultures and as a matter of fact, majority of Dinka from Duk County do not even know how to speak in Dinka," he further claimed.
He said the cultural similarities between the Nuer and the Dinka of Duk county “put them at greater risk given Kiir’s army systematic and deliberate targeting of the Nuers wherever they are found.”
He also dismissed government claims that they were in control of Gadiang while pursuing the rebels to Yuai, describing the claim as "empty words that do not contain any element of truth".
"In fact, our forces are in firm control of Gadiang," he said.
The spokesperson also denied rumors in some media quarters that the rebels had lost 173 including three generals, namely Gen Simon Gatwech Dual and Brig James Mabor Dhol plus another unnamed officer, saying those were mere fabrications.
"The generals are safe and sound," he said, adding "SPLA’s claims that they had killed 173 of our servicemen are far-fetched imaginary figures".