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S. Sudan army in control of Bor amid rebel claims of tactical withdrawal

January 18, 2014 (KAMPALA/JUBA) - South Sudanese army announced they retook the capital of Jonglei state, Bor for the second time from the rebels, but the latter claimed they operated a tactical withdrawal.

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A South Sudanese government soldier pictured on 18 January 2014 in Bor, a strategic town South Sudanese government forces backed by Ugandan troops recaptured from rebel forces loyal to deposed vice-president Riek Machar (Photo: AFP/Charles Lomodong)

"Government forces have today defeated the rebel forces in Bor," Col. South Sudanese army spokesperson Philip Aguer briefly told Sudan Tribune on Saturday.

In additional statements, Aguer further told reporters that the recapture of Bor frustrates Riek Machar’s plan to attack the South Sudanese capital Juba and to "install himself as the ruler of South Sudan".

Located 200 kilometres north of the capital Juba, Bor was the first town to be taken by the rebels after the clashes that took place in Juba on 15 December 2013.

On 18 December South Sudanese army in Juba said they lost contact with the commander in charge of the SPLA’s 8th Division in Jonglei state Gen. Peter Gatdet who had already announced a mutiny against the government accusing it of killing Nuer people in the capital.

The rebel leader and former vice-president Riek Machar, several days later, stated that Juba would be the next target of his troops, as reports cited mobilisations among the militiamen of the White Army from the Lou Nuer in the largest South Sudanese state.

The South Sudanese army retook the town on 25 December, but again the rebels seized the flashpoint town of Bor on 31 December.

JUST A WITHDRAWAL

Machar’s spokesperson, James Dak confirmed to Sudan Tribune that the SPLA regained the control of Bor, but added that their fighters just "tactically withdrew" from the town.

"There was no fight in Bor town. Our forces tactically withdrew and now preparing for the next move that will target a number of more strategic towns and locations", he stressed.

He further said the withdrawal was meant to lure in "the pro-Kiir forces and their Ugandan mercenaries".

UGANDA CLAIMS CREDIT

The spokesperson of the Uganda People’s Defence Force, Paddy Ankunda, was the first to announce the capture of Bor on Saturday when he wrote on Twitter "UPDF has captured the town of Bor in S. Sudan. Big relief to trapped Ugandan, international community".

"There was a lot of resistance, but our force was overwhelming," he further told Reuters after the tweet.

In a speech he made on Friday in Bombo town, central Uganda, President Yoweri Museveni told the Army Council that he deployed troops in South Sudan to save the neighbouring country from collapse.

He further added that the two warring parties are on the side of the Ugandan government.

South Sudanese government and rebel negotiating teams in Addis Ababa are expected to sign a cessation of hostilities agreement, as the African Union, United Nations and United States are pressing the two sides to accept it and to engage in political talks to settle the conflict.

(ST)