January 27, 2017 (JUBA)- South Sudanese rival forces have resumed fighting in the oil producing Upper Nile region, sparking fear it could lead to major hostilities in the region which experienced a pause in military activities since the beginning of the year.
- Rebel fighters walk in front of a bushfire in a rebel-controlled territory in Upper Nile State, South Sudan February 13, 2014. (Photo Reuters/Goran Tomasevic)
It remains unclear who initiated the fight which has been ongoing over the past three days. Government forces have denied having moved from their positions for any military activities, though armed opposition fighters claimed they came under attack from them.
Col. William Gatjiath Deng, military spokesperson of the SPLA-IO, claimed Friday their forces in the area came under attack by the government forces, in Owach, an area located west bank of the Nile, encouraging them to fight back.
The spokesperson for military of armed opposition claimed the clashes between the two sides erupted in Lelo, Warjuok and Detang areas on Friday and were still continuing.
“The fighting started since morning in Lelo and Warjuok and the fighting is still ongoing in Warjuok, Lelo and Detang, the fighting is continuing up to now,” said the rebel official.
The areas where the fighting broke, he said, are controlled by the government, whose forces moved out from their positions and shelled the armed opposition fighters in their areas.
On his part, the deputy government forces spokesperson denied any knowledge of the alleged fighting in the area between government forces and opposition fighters. Col. Santo Dominic Chol said he has no such information from the SPLA commanding officers in the area where fighting is reported.
However, civilians its protected civilian camp in Malakal claimed to have heard sounds of gunfire coming from the direction of Detang and Lelo but did not have any details.
UN CONFIRMS CLASHES
From New York UN Spokesperson Stéphane Dujarric, confirmed the rebel statements about the fighting between the two sides.
"Our colleagues from the UN Peacekeeping Mission in South Sudan report that intermittent shelling could be heard this afternoon in Malakal in Upper Nile from the Ditang area towards the north of the town, close to the UN base," said Dujarric.
This follows reports of heavy fighting on Wednesday between the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) and opposition forces in Ditang, Lelo, Artakong and Burkiny.
Yesterday, the UN Mission reported that Malakal town was deserted, with SPLA soldiers in the area reportedly on high alert, he added.
UNMISS, according to Dujarric, reiterated its call on all parties to immediately cease hostilities and fully implement the peace agreement.