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S. Sudan army says it’s in “full” control of Bentiu town

October 31, 2014 (JUBA) – The South Sudanese army (SPLA) has dismissed as false and misleading claims by rebels that they are in full control of Bentiu, a town north of the capital, Juba.

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SPLA spokesperson Phillip Aguer (Reuters)

“The SPLA forces are in full control of Bentiu. They have never left the town. Put them on your plane and let them go with you to show you where they are in Bentiu,” Col. Phillip Aguer, the SPLA spokesperson told the United Nations-sponsored Miraya radio on Thursday.

He said government forces repulsed rebel fighters after more than five hours of fighting and are mopping the town.

"Rubkona is part of Bentiu and our forces are the ones controlling it. There are flights going and coming from Rubkona airport. They land and take off, which is an indication that the area remains under the full control of the SPLA forces,” Aguer explained.

“They would not be moving if it were under their [rebel] control”, he added.

Unity state information minister, Peter Makuoth Malual, also denied the rebels’ claims, saying they penetrated the town, but were repulsed by pro-government army.

“The rebels came from the Sudan with huge force and heavy weapons and started fighting with our forces at Unity [state] oil field and then moved to kilo 30 and again Rubkona where fighting took place for more than five hours, but they were finally defeated,” Malual told Sudan Tribune on Friday.

“They never took control of Bentiu town”, stressed Malual.

He further said more than 26 dead bodies were found, 13 of them in the Koch county commissioner’s house and 10 others in a church.

“The situation is now under our full control. Searching is continuing and we expect these numbers to rise because some people were killed in their houses”, said Malual.

The rebel military spokesperson, Brig. Gen Lul Koang claimed their forces were in control of Bentiu, an allegation Juba says is mere propaganda to mislead the public as well as demoralise the army.

Both the US and United Nations strongly condemned the latest rebel attacks in the oil-rich region, describing it as a violation of the cessation of hostilities agreement signed by the two rival factions.