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South Sudan army defectors seize control of Bor: SPLA

December 19, 2013 (JUBA) - South Sudan’s army (SPLA) acknowledged that it is “not in control of Bor” after forces loyal to Gen. Peter Gatdet Yak overran military bases on Tuesday and took over the town on Wednesday evening.

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SPLA General Peter Gadet Yaak addresses the press in Jonglei capital Bor on 2 April 2013 (ST)

SPLA spokesperson Col. Philip Aguer said the national army is meeting to discuss its next move in light of the recent development amid growing international concern for the humanitarian situation in Jonglei’s state capital.

The SPLA said on Thursday that Gadet, who was a commander in charge of the SPLA’s 8th Division in Jonglei state, has defected from its ranks.

He reportedly broke off from army ranks over allegations that his tribe, the Nuer, have been targeted in the current tension.

Over the weekend clashes erupted in Juba between units of the presidential guards from competing tribes of the Dinka and Nuer. The fighting spread throughout the city, which lead to the death of at least 500 people, with hundreds more injured.

In a TV appearance on Monday, Kiir accused his former deputy, Riek Machar, who hails from the Nuer tribe, of staging a coup attempt, along with other prominent South Sudanese officials from the ruling Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM).

Observers and independent analysts have expressed fears that Gadet’s defection could complicate the security situation in Jonglei where government forces have been battling to exert full control in areas where rebel leader David Yau Yau has remained active since 2012.

In a statement released on Thursday, the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) said the “security conditions in the Jonglei state capital of Bor have deteriorated significantly during the course of the day”.

“UNMISS has received reports that heavy fighting erupted in the city in the wee hours of this morning and continued for four hours. The violence triggered an exodus of civilians out of Bor, and thousands have sought shelter at the mission’s compound on the south-eastern outskirts of the city”, the statement said.

“As is the case in Juba, UNMISS is providing water, sanitation facilities and medical care to civilians who have taken refuge in its Bor compound. A limited number of tents have been erected to house some of these civilians. Late this afternoon, UNMISS staff members reported that heavy weapons fire erupted in a neighbourhood of Bor about a kilometre away from the mission’s compound”, the statement adds.

Residents in Bor fled to nearby bushes and swampy areas across the Nile River.

One resident, who was still hiding within the town, told Sudan Tribune by phone on Thursday that “a huge building is burning in the market”, raising the possibility of looting and destruction around the Bor trade centre of Maror.

Jonglei’s acting governor, John Kong Nyuon, who returned from Juba on Wednesday, is also said to be taking refuge inside the UNMISS camp, while a number of senior state officials have reportedly fled the town with civilians.

South Sudan Red Cross (SSRC) said at least 19 bodies were found on Wednesday, bringing the death toll to 22, including three children who perished after their boat capsized while crossing the Nile River.

(ST)

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