April 19, 2014 (JUBA) – The South Sudanese military on Saturday said it was scaling up major operations against rebels seeking to control the country’s state oil fields, saying it had repulsed sustained attacks in Unity and Upper Nile states.
- SPLA spokesperson Phillip Aguer (Reuters)
"Bentiu remains a contested town. Our forces are at the outskirt and it is a matter of time before they take full control. This is a war which is being fought with military tactics," Phillip Aguer, the army spokesperson said by phone.
"They [rebels] have resorted to guerrilla tactics and declared their objectives to hamper oil production,As the national, we have a constitutional responsibility to protect lives and properties of our people, the army spokesperson," he added.
The rebel military spokesperson, Lt. Col Peter Riek Gew told Sudan Tribune on Friday that their forces have again captured Leer county, southeast of Bentiu town.
He further said that they had 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.
Aguer denied the rebels had taken full control of all Unity state oil areas, but admitted the army was facing “sustained attack on their positions” since Thursday afternoon.
“The general security in the country is relatively calm except in the states of Unity and Upper Nile where rebels have been launching sporadic attacks on the positions of the SPLA forces for the last two days. They made attempts to overrun Renk with shelling but forces there managed to contain and situation is now under control. There are on the other side of the river. They also made similar attempts on Malakal from Doleib and canal on Wednesday. The same thing unity state, but forces repulsed all these attacks and are in process of taking full control of all these areas," Aguer told Sudan Tribune.
"It is just a matter time and the whole situation will return to normal," he added.
Meanwhile, an oil ministry official who asked not to be named said the rebels damaged a refinery in Tharjath, injuring three Russian oil workers at the facility.
"There is a big security threat for oilfields and they have to be given maximum protection to continue production in Paloch and secure resumption in Unity state," said the official.
Production in Upper Nile state’s Paloch oilfields, where output has not been hampered by the conflict, stood at 159,000 barrels per day this week. The conflict has disrupted oil production, which mainly provides government revenue.
Recently, the rebels issued warnings to oil firms, giving it workers a three-week ultimatum to pack up and leave following last Tuesday’s recapture of Bentiu town.