April 16, 2014 (ADDIS ABABA) – Heavy fighting has erupted in Renk County, in the extreme northern part of the oil-rich Upper Nile state as rebels and government troops clashed over the control of the rich county bordering the Sudan, rebels said.
Rebel spokesperson said the opposition forces responded swiftly when the government troops in the town moved out and attacked their defensive positions just across the Nile, few kilometres west of Renk town.
"Salva Kiir’s soldiers came out and attempted to cross the Nile from the east to attack our positions just across the River. Our forces on the other western side of the Nile responded with heavy artillery shelling against their positions inside Renk town since Wednesday evening," a military spokesperson Lt. Col Peter Riek Gew told Sudan Tribune on Thursday morning.
He said there was a lull during the night but the shelling has continued on Thursday morning as the two rival forces were controlling each side of the river, asserting that he expected the rebels to move into the town during the day.
Eyewitnesses in Renk town reported heavy shelling as residents were fleeing the town for their lives.
The county is located in eastern bank of the River Nile and the richest in agriculture in the state.
It is strategic town and can pose an additional threat to the oilfields if the rebels capture it from the government, observers say.
Upper Nile state government last month suggested relocating the state capital, Malakal, to Renk hundreds of kilometres north, as insecurity deteriorated when the rebels took control of the state capital for the second time.
The latest incident came just a day after the rebels took full control of Unity state’s capital, Bentiu, as well as Unity oilfields.
Gew further told Sudan Tribune that they were clearing all the counties in Unity state as government troops were evacuating from the areas.
Rebels also warned to recapture Malakal and oilfields in Upper Nile state as well during the rainy season.