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S. Sudan rebels deny presence of NAS forces in Equatoria region

March 16, 2017 (JUBA) - The South Sudan armed opposition forces (SPLM-IO) have dismissed as “null” and “lies” claims by the leader of the National Salvation Front (NAS) that he has a huge number of fighters operating within the Equatoria regions of South Sudan.

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Lt. Gen. Thomas Cirino Swaka, the ex-SPLA deputy chief of general staff for training (youtube photo)

In a statement extended to Sudan Tribune, Lam Kuei Lam, the press secretary of the armed opposition leader, Riek Machar denied any link with the new rebel group led by Lt. Gen. Thomas Cirillo Swaka.

“The SPLM/SPLA - IO would like to dismiss claims from Gen. Thomas Cirillo Swaka alleging that our forces, the SPLA/IO in Equatoria region, had pledged loyalty to him and his movement the National Salvation front/army. This is not true and is a clear indicator of bad faith from Gen. Swaka,” the statement reads in part.

He said the SPLM-IO leadership had shown a high level of appreciation and respect to Swaka after the latter resignation from the military and later formed a rebel movement to fight the regime in Juba.

Lam said the ex-army logistical chief, had prior to his defection requested that 40 of his bodyguards be absorbed by the SPLM-IO, denying claims that their forces in Western Bahr Al Ghazal had been dissolved and merged into NAS movement following the defection of General Faiz Ismail Fatur, the former sector division commander.

“That is another mere lie too. Lt. Gen. Thomas Bazilio, the sector commander in western Bahr Al Ghazal had dismissed such allegations in an earlier statement,” further adds the statement.

The newly-appointed rebel spokesperson assured their supporters, sympathies and South Sudanese in general that their forces in Equatoria and Western Bahr el Ghazal regions remain under the full command of their commander and leader Machar.