March 22, 2014 (JUBA) – Officials from Duk county in South Sudan’s Jonglei state have called on the South Sudan army (SPLA) to step up protection amid renewed threats of an “imminent attack” on the civil population.
Duk county lawmaker Philip Thon Leek said there are reports that rebel forces are mobilising in neighbouring Ayod county to launch a fresh attack on Duk and swampy areas were women and children took refuge in February after violence broke out in the region.
“This is a desperate situation,” Leek told Sudan Tribune on Saturday. “We fear that [at] anytime they will attack and we appeal for quick action [from the national army to protect civilians].”
Leek claims that the rebel forces are converging in Akuac Deng, a payam (district) in Ayod county neighbouring Duk to the north.
Sudan Tribune was not able to independently verify the claims due to the remoteness of the area, which is not easily contactable by mobile phone.
Leek alleged that rebel commander Khor Chol, who formerly headed army forces in Pajut in Duk county before defecting, is now leading preparations for a fresh attack.
Duk county officials said rebels forces had been driven out by local youths earlier this month after they occupied and destroyed areas in and around the main towns.
The Duk Lost Boys clinic, the sole health facility in Duk county and the neighbouring Uror and Twic East counties, was also ransacked.
Funded by US and European donors, the clinic provided a wide range of health services and was particularly known for its eye surgery.
A rebel spokesperson has dismissed claims its forces are preparing to launch a fresh attack, saying the allegations were an attempt by the government to cover up its plans to expand offensives in areas of Ayod county.
“The information we have gathered from the leadership on the ground is [the] opposite. It is instead the government and its foreign allies in Bor county which have been preparing to launch an offensive into the areas of Ayod county,” said James Gatdet Dak, the spokesperson for rebel leader Riek Machar.
Dak added that rebel forces have the right to self defence and were prepared to repulse attackers should they attempt to move in to rebel-controlled areas.
SPLA spokesman Col. Philip Aguer did not respond to calls by Sudan Tribune.
Duk county authorities alleged that anti-government forces began attacking villages on 24 February, forcing some 68,000 people to leave their homes.
The attacks reportedly occurred after rebel forces were repulsed by government forces from Gadiang, a military base in Jonglei.