April 14, 2014 (KAMPALA) – Rebel spokesperson Peter Riek Gew says forces from the South Sudanese army (SPLA) loyal to president Salva Kiir attacked their hideout in the north of Unity state on Sunday night.
- A South Sudanese government soldier stands in front of a vehicle in South Sudan’s Unity State on 12 January 2014 (AP)
However, he claims rebels defended their positions and have captured an oil field, about 35km from the state capital, Bentiu.
The incident is the latest blow to a ceasefire deal signed between the South Sudanese government and the rebel Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army in Opposition.
“We have been respecting [the] ceasefire agreement for so long but the SPLA never do that. We have managed to repulse [a] twin attack launched by [the] SPLA on us that led to our gallant forces - SPLA in Opposition - to capture Tor-abieth, Tharwangyiela, kilo 30 (Sikasik) which is known as Kubur Nyabol,” said Gew told Sudan Tribune phone, adding that rebel troops were now advancing towards the capital.
Many residents have fled Bentiu over the past three days amid fears of imminent rebel attacks.
On Sunday, government forces blocked some people from entering a UN protection site at Rubkotna.
Sources inside the UNMISS camp in Bentiu town told Sudan Tribune by phone on Monday morning that the sound of heavy gunfire could be heard outside.
“We are hearing artillery shelling and numbers of civilians are running inside [the] UN camp,” said an aid worker, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
Last week, former vice-president turned rebel leader Riek Machar said he intended to launch mass attacks targeting oil fields.
He said the move was designed to stop the flow of oil money, which it claims is being used by the Juba administration to “rent” foreign forces.
Unity state has changed hands several times since political tensions erupted in violence in the nation’s capital, Juba, in mid-December last year.
The conflict, which has since spread throughout the country, has pitted government troops loyal to Kiir against pro-Mahar rebels.
Ongoing peace talks between the warring parties brokered by the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) has failed to quell the violence, with both sides accusing each other of violating the terms of a ceasefire deal signed on 23 January in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa.