April 19, 2014 (KAMPALA) – South Sudanese rebels have announced further victories over the government troops in the Unity state, days after taking full control of the state capital, Bentiu, as well as Unity oilfields.
- SPLA soldiers get off of a pick-up truck in Bentiu, Unity state January 12, 2014. (Photo Reuters/Andreea Campeanu)
The government confirmed that the rebels led by the former vice president, Riek Machar, had taken the control of the town since Tuesday.
Rebel military spokesperson based in Unity state, Lt. Col Peter Riek Gew, however told Sudan Tribune on Friday that the opposition forces have again captured Leer county, home of the rebel leader, Machar, southeast of Bentiu town.
He further said that they have also recaptured Tharjiath oilfields, the remaining oilfields in the state located in Koch county, about 40km south of Bentiu.
"Our forces have now taken full control of Leer county, Mirmir and Tharjiath oilfields in the operations to clear the state from the pro-Salva Kiir soldiers and their foreign mercenaries,” he told Sudan Tribune by phone from Bentiu.
He said the government forces in those areas were retreating towards Bahr el Ghazal region.
The SPLA spokesperson is not reachable for comment, despite several attempts.
Military sources in the area claimed their positions had been under sustained rebel attack since Thursday afternoon, despite SPLA receiving huge reinforcement from its fifth and third divisions in West and Northern Bahr el Ghazal, where headquarters are located.
The rebel spokesperson further added that fighting was also going on in Mayom county, west of Bentiu, as the rebels wanted to control the bordering town on the road to Warrap state.
Another attempt by the government forces was repulsed at Pariang junction on Friday as they tried to head to Bentiu from the northern direction, the rebels said.
The rebels claimed they killed 57 government in that confrontation, adding that the opposition forces were on their way to Pariang county in the far north, which borders Sudan.
Rebels say if the IGAD-mediated peace process fails in Addis Ababa, they intend to clear the whole of Upper Nile region during the rainy season and take the fight to the national capital, Juba, and Bahr el Ghazal region.
Well informed sources in Juba say the government was planning to deploy more troops in Warrap state as they expect that rebels would seek to intensify attacks during the wet seasons.
Currently, there is a combined presence of South Sudan army and Ugandan UPDF forces in Upper Nile and Equatoria regions, fighting against the rebels.
In his recent visit to Addis Ababa, president Kiir reportedly urged the regional governments to quickly deploy the suggested forces to South Sudan to protect government’s vital installations.
Last month, Kenyan foreign ministry rejected to contribute troops in the IGAD force and instead declared this week it was sending 300 more troops to add to its 700 contingent already serving in the United Nations mission in South Sudan (UNMISS).