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South Sudan presidency denies Malakal town fell under rebel control

September 8, 2015 (JUBA) - The office of South Sudan’s president, Salva Kiir, has denied on Tuesday reports claiming Malakal town, capital of the oil producing Upper Nile state, had fallen under the control of the armed opposition fighters led by former vice president, Riek Machar.

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A member of South Sudanese rebel patrols the streets of Malakal, on March 4, 2014 (Photo AFP/Andrei Pungovschi)

This came after the government forces engaged in a series of clashes in violation of permanent ceasefire which the rival leaders have declared after signing the peace deal in August.

The presidency explained in a statement that Malakal town was under full control of the government forces despite alleged several attempts by the armed opposition fighters to capture it over the past few days.

“The office of the president has learnt that the rebels of Riek Machar are claiming the fall of Malakal to their attacking forces, in clear violation of the permanent ceasefire declared by the government and the rebels on 27th and 29th August, 2015 respectively,” the statement reads in part.

“However, we would like to inform those to whom it may [concern] that Malakal is under full control of government forces,” it added.

The statement extended to Sudan Tribune on Tuesday by presidential spokesperson, Ateny Wek Ateny, charged that armed opposition fighters unsuccessfully attempted more than three times to gain control of the state capital.

“In actual fact, there were some attempts by the rebels to take control of Malakal town on 6th and 7th as well as this morning on 8th August, 2015, in clear violation of the declared ceasefire and the signed IGAD plus peace agreement, but their attempts were thwarted by our gallant SPLA forces who are under instructions to fire only in self-defence,” the statement further reads.

It called on regional leaders and the international community to exert pressure on the rebel leader, Machar and forces under his command to observe meaningful ceasefire so as to avoid further confrontation between the two warring factions and embark on implementation of the peace deal.

Rebels, however, said it was the government that attacked their positions around Malakal on the west bank of the River Nile, and that the opposition fighters were only fighting in self defence.

Government officials including president Kiir admitted that element officers in the army have been violating the ceasefire by attacking bases of the opposition faction, warning of punitive measures against such officers.

Fighting was reported on Tuesday around Malakal with eyewitnesses telling Sudan Tribune that rebels regained control of their bases including Lelo which government forces captured from them on Sunday and Monday.

(ST)