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S. Sudan rebels say repulsed government troops in Bieh state

Sudan People's Liberation Army soldiers walk along a road near Bor, on January 31, 2014 (AFP Photo)
October 8, 2017 (JUBA) - South Sudan rebels claimed their forces repulsed attempts by government forces to retake the main airstrip in Waat, Bieh state using helicopter gunships and ground troops on Sunday.

In a statement extended to Sudan Tribune, the rebels’ official spokesperson, Gen. William Gatjiath Deng claimed Ugandan-owned gunships backed by the South Sudanese army (SPLA) troops tried to recapture territories in Waat over the weekend.

“At around 10:00 am Saturday morning of October 07, 2017, Ugandan helicopter gunships and warplanes indiscriminately bombed SPLA (IO) positions and civilian targets in and around Waat, 90 % of which SPLM-SPLA (IO) now control,” reads the statement.

Gatjiath accused South Sudan government troops of bombarding the armed opposition faction’s positions, barely three-days after chiefs of defence forces of Uganda and South Sudan held meetings.

The Ugandan-owned gunship, according to the rebel official, mainly targeted Waat airstrip, which he said remains under rebels’ control.

Government soldiers wounded from the attack, he said, have no access to food, water and medical services after the armed opposition force sealed all supply routes for delivery of such services.

Fighting between government forces and the rebels in Waat town has left dozens of fighter dead from both sides, eyewitnesses said.

Many civilians are feared to have died in the area following the recent clashes between the warring parties, aid workers disclosed.

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) on Thursday expressed concern about the fate of people wounded in the fighting around Waat, in South Sudan’s Bieh state, and requested all sides to allow the wounded access to health care.

ICRC, in a statement, reminded all sides involved in the South Sudanese conflict to respect and protect those not taking part in the fighting, including wounded combatants.

“The ICRC has been able to evacuate several wounded combatants so far and we stand ready to do it again. We are discussing with all sides to the conflict to ensure that the wounded have access to the medical assistance they are entitled to,” ICRC’s head of delegation in South Sudan, Francois Stamm said.

Fresh clashes erupted early this week between government forces and rebels loyal to the country’s former deputy president Riek Machar known as SPLA-IO, which left over 90 killed and dozens injured, according to the SPLA.

The SPLA spokesman, Lul Ruai Koang blamed the opposition fighters for obstructing evacuation efforts by the ICRC on Wednesday, alleging that rebel fighters fired shells at the airstrip as the ICRC team tried to evacuate their wounded soldiers.