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S. Sudan army lays barricade around rebel headquarters

Sudan People's Liberation Army soldiers walk along a road near Bor, on January 31, 2014 (AFP Photo)
July 16, 2017 (JUBA) – The South Sudanese army (SPLA) in collaboration with the armed opposition faction fighters in the coalition government have reportedly laid a siege around the headquarters of rebels loyal to former First Vice-President, Riek Machar.

A senior government military officer said pro-government forces have laid a siege around the stronghold of troops allied to the exiled rebel leader.

“The rebels are in weak position. They have no logistics and so our forces decided to siege Pagak so that civilians could find an escaping route to refugee camps in Gambella, Ethiopia,” the officer, who spoke to Sudan Tribune on condition of anonymity, disclosed on Sunday.

“So Pagak, as I am talking to you, is lockdown. Our forces are collaborating with SPLA-IO [armed opposition faction] peace wing under General Taban Deng Gai in battling anti-peace elements that have rejected the call for national dialogue”, he added.

Multiple sources claimed SPLA troops were few kilometres away from Pagak, a rebel base on the border of South Sudan and Ethiopia.

Pro-government forces have allegedly seized several weapons from Machar’s fighters after a series of gun battles on the way to Pagak.

Aid workers have also confirmed the clashes around Pagak, forcing some of them to flee to Gambella in Ethiopia after the town came under sustained air and ground attacks from the government forces.

About 5,000 civilians, the United Nations said, have fled their homes in Pagak.

The head of the U.N mission in South Sudan, David Shearer said last week that thousands of South Sudanese civilians were fleeing to neighbouring Ethiopia as government troops advanced towards Pagak, expressing grave concern about the growing refugee crisis.

“At least 25 aid workers have been forced to relocate from Pagak and surrounding areas due to increased insecurity,” said Shearer.

Stressing there was no military solution to the South Sudan conflict, the U.N official called upon the two warring factions to stop the fighting.

“It’s unacceptable that 250 innocent children, and the people who care for them, find themselves in no man’s land between the warring parties,” Shearer told reporters in the South Sudan capital, Juba.

The South Sudanese conflict started in mid-December 2013 when President Salva Kiir accused Machar of a coup attempt. Since then, tens of thousands of people have died and over 2 million have been displaced.

(ST)