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S. Sudanese army claim to have regained rebel-held areas

May 1, 2015 (BENTIU) - South Sudanese army (SPLA) claimed they have regained control of rebel-held areas in Nhialdiu payam, south-west of Unity state capital, Bentiu.

South Sudanese soldiers patrol the streets of Unity state capital Bentiu on 12 January 2014 (Photo: Simon Maina/AFP)

The clashes between the country’s two rival factions reportedly occurred on Wednesday and Thursday in Rubkotna county, a stronghold of the armed opposition groups led by South Sudan’s former vice president, Riek Machar.

The commissioner for Mayom county, Col. Bol Mayak, said government forces control several villages, including Nhialdiu payam.

"Yes our forces have taken some locations from rebel-held areas inthe last one week of operation. The rebels always attack our positions which angered the SPLA forces to pursue them in theirhideouts," Mayak told Sudan Tribune via satellite phone Friday.

He accused the rebels of violating the ceasefire agreements after they allegedly attacked government-held territories north, south and east of Bentiu, including the main oil fields north of Bentiu.

“The SPLA forces are advancing towards Koch after their successful mission in the four payams in Koch and Rubkotna counties,” he said.

ACCUSATIONS OF RAPE AND RAID

In multiple interviews, local chiefs from Rubkotna and Guit counties in Unity state accused pro-government of allegedly committing various crimes on innocent civilians during the attack on rebel-held areas.

Gatkor Thaak, a resident from Rubkotna, said over 30 civilians were allegedly killed when armed civilians and government forces from Mayom, Warrap and Abiehnom attacked Thaknyal, Waak, Tongedool, Tuarkiel and Kotchiengdut on Thursday and Friday.

He told Sudan Tribune that all villages were set on fire, with over 350 cattle allegedly raided by pro-government forces.

"Most of the people who attacked us were civilians from Mayom, Abiehnom and Warrap state. They were promised by pro-government forces take cattle and women after a successful mission in the rebel-held areas," said Thaak.

He claimed Bul-Nuer militias fought alongside pro-government forces during the attack.

Mangag Tuoth, a Sultan from Guit county, separately accused the pro-government forces of allegedly raping women and girls after failing to retake Kuergueyni and Dhorbor areas of oil-rich Unity state.

Over 15 houses, he said, were set ablaze allegedly by the SPLA after facing strong resistance from rebels in the south and east of Bentiu town.

Commissioner Mayak, however, dismissed as untrue claims that he mobilised youth from neighbouring Warrap state against rebels, but admitted that youths from Mayom assisted pro-government forces.

He also denied reports that the SPLA forces took away cattle and women after they successfully launched attacks in rebels-held territories.

Tens of thousands of people have been killed and nearly two million displaced in South Sudan’s worst-ever outbreak of violence since it seceded from Sudan in July 2011.

(ST)