October 16, 2016 (MALAKAL) – Intense fighting between South Sudan’s rival factions around the Upper Nile state capital, claimed about 56 lives, the army spokesperson, Lul Ruai Koang said Sunday.
- SPLA soldiers sit at the back of a pick-up truck in Malakal, Upper Nile state January 12, 2014. (Photo Reuters/Andreea Campeanu)
The clashes, he said, occurred over the weekend as the armed opposition forces attempted to gain control of the strategic town.
Koang claimed a separate rebel attack on a government post was successfully thwarted by pro-government forces in Malakal Friday.
"Our forces were able to successfully drive them back with heavy casualties. Over 56 rebels were killed," he told Reuters.
The official rebel spokesperson was not immediately available for a comment.
South Sudan’s rival factions traded accusations over clashes in their respective positions, raising doubts on the implementation of last year’s peace agreement, which ended over 20 months of conflict.
The rebels, in a statement, claimed their position in the west bank of Malakal was attacked at about 6:00pm by pro-government forces.
“Today evening at 6pm, our military positions near Wajwok and Lalo villages had been attacked by SPLA forces stationed in respective locations mentioned and heavy fighting is going on right now”, said Brig. Gen. Nyagwal Ajak Dengkak in a statement.
He blamed the attack on government forces, further claiming that pro-government forces had deployed helicopter gunships to Malakal town with the view to reinforce ground forces with air cover should their forces attempt to move on the oil-rich town.
Sudan Tribune was unable to independently verify the rebel’s claims.
South Sudan descended into war in December 2013 after President Salva Kiir accused his former deputy Riek Machar of a coup attempt. Tens of thousands of people have died and millions have displaced in the country’s worst-ever violence.