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South Sudan army regains control of key rebel-held areas

December 18, 2017 (JUBA)- The South Sudanese army has retaken full control of the areas in Yei River State previously held by the armed opposition forces under the overall leadership and command of the former First Vice President, Riek Machar.

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The SPLA-IO forces during their arrival at Masana Biira in Wau on 07, August 2017 (ST)

The commander of the government troops in Yei, Col Malong Agat told Sudan Tribune on Monday their forces have regained control of Mitika and Lasu after forcing the opposition to withdraw.

“All these areas are our under control and the security situation is calm. There was no fighting and so we don’t have casualties to report. They did not stay in town when our forces enter. There was no resistance. It was an entry without exchange of gunfire,” said Agat.

Yei River State which is close to the border with Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo, witnessed fierce fightings as the two warring parties launched attacks and counterattacks several times this year.

Col. Lam Paul Gabriel, SPLA-IO Deputy Military Spokesperson also confirmed in a statement that government forces launched an offensive towards Lasu in Yei River State capturing Mitika at night. The government forces, according to Gabriel, also entered Lasu area where civilians reside and embarked on destroying properties and raping women they captured.

“Early this morning, the enemy forces went straight to the SPLA-IO base in Lasu and took full control of it after our forces were advised to withdraw to avoid more civilian casualties”, said the opposition spokesman in a statement released on Monday following the takeover.

The opposition spokesman also admitted that their forces ambushed a convoy allegedly carrying Sudanese fighters from Darfur region members of rebel Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) under the command of Brig. Gen Abdel Rahman Arbab in Mangayat.

These foreign forces, he claimed, were taking weapons and ammunition from Wau to Raja to help Governor Rizik Zachariah to attack their bases as part of the government campaign to widen their areas of control during this dry season.

“The SPLA-IO forces destroyed two (2) government trucks and captured one killing 35 government soldiers combined with JEM militias and injuring several. The SPLA-IO forces also rescued four humanitarian staffs whose identities and organization are yet to be established; being used as shields by the government in the transportation of this military hardware. They are currently safe and sound with our forces around Raja and will be handed over to the concern third party as soon as possible”, the statement reads.

The rebel group said all these attacks coincide with the IGAD-brokered high-level revitalization forum which started Monday in Addis Ababa to ensure the full implementation of a peace agreement signed in August 2015.

“It makes one wonders if the government really means peace or war. The SPLA IO, therefore, calls upon the IGAD, TROIKA and the World to take note of all these acts of aggression and provocation and we should not be blamed for retaliating,” said Gabriel in a statement.

(ST)