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Civilians flees as S. Sudan rival forces clash in Unity state

July 20, 2017 (BENTIU) – Hundreds of civilians fled Bentiu town, following renewed clashes on Thursday between South Sudan’s rival forces at Panakuach, north of Unity state.

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The map of Unity state

Aid workers at the protection of civilians’ sites confirmed the attack.

A number of civilians, eyewitnesses told Sudan Tribune, were seen fleeing the town into the United Nations camp in Rubkotna.

“A large number of civilians feared of their safety in Bentiu, as the armed opposition approached 40 kilometers away northwest of Bentiu,” an eyewitness said Thursday.

Some civilians accused government forces blocked them from entering the UN camp, allegations Sudan Tribune could not verify.

However, the rebel spokesperson, Brig Gen. William Gatjiath Deng claimed he was unaware of any fighting between the rival factions.

The official said the rebels would defend their territory, despite the recently declared ceasefire, if the government forces provoke them.

The spokesperson for the armed opposition faction in Juba, Dickson Gatluak told Sudan Tribune that their forces fighting alongside government troops would counter attacks from rebels in Unity State.

“The situation in Bentiu must be monitored with maximum attention. At present time, the SPLA-IO [armed opposition] troops in collaboration with the SPLA [South Sudan army] are monitoring the situation in areas of the oil-rich state, north of the country,” he said.

The situation around Bentiu town has reportedly remained tensed amidst fears of a full-scale war between the two main rival factions.

South Sudan’s conflict started in December 2013 when President Kiir accused Machar of a coup attempt. Since then, tens of thousands of people been killed and over 2 million displaced.

(ST)