September 25, 2016 (BENTIU) - Heavy fighting broke out on Sunday morning between South Sudanese government troops (SPLA) and armed opposition faction (SPLA-IO) in Rubkotna county of the country’s oil-rich Unity state.
- South Sudanese rebel troops loyal to former vice-president Riek Machar stand on guard in Unity state capital Bentiu on 12 January 2014 after recapturing the strategic town from government troops (Photo: Reuters)
Civilians, who fled to the United Nations camp in Unity state capital, Bentiu, confirmed the clashes in series of interviews with Sudan Tribune.
Heavy gunshots and bombardments were heard west of Rubkotna.
A resident of Rubkotna, only identified as Peter, said clashes occurred in Wichbaar, Tong and Pakuur in the northwest of Bentiu.
The press secretary to the rebel-appointed governor of Unity state, Weirial Puok Baluang claimed the armed opposition faction had been facing imminent attacks from government forces for weeks.
He said they repulsed the attacks, as their forces advanced towards Bentiu town “with heavy causality against the government forces”.
“Nonetheless, our valiant army SPLA-IO repelled them with vast mortalities inflicted on them as they were dreadfully running back towards Bentiu town,” Puok told Sudan Tribune over phone.
Puok accused forces allied to President Salva Kiir of resorting to war options, but said the armed opposition was well equipped militarily.
“The demise of the August 2015 agreement on the TGoNU [Transitional Government of National Unity] and the subsequent exit of the unsolicited weeds from the SPLM/A-IO have boosted the willpower of our army. Thus, it will allow the rightful owners of the land to claim back their family land in Bentiu anytime from now,” he said.
The army is yet to officially react to reports on Sunday’s clashes in Unity state.