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S. Sudan army says foiled attack on Upper Nile oilfields

July 23, 2017 (JUBA) – South Sudan army said Saturday that it foiled an alleged attack by the armed opposition forces from taking over an oil field located in the country’s oil-producing state of Upper Nile.

A worker at the power plant of an oil processing facility in South Sudan’s Unity state on 22 April 2012 (Photo: Reuters)

The army spokesperson, Brig. Gen. Lul Ruai, said their forces fought in to defend from rebel forces intending to gain control of the oil areas.

The army, according to the military spokesman, has the constitutional mandate to protect national resources of the country, including the oilfields from destruction in the interest of the public.

“We have said before that we did not violate the ceasefire because we have not launched any attack on nobody or their positions after the declaration of the ceasefire. Our forces kept their positions and complied,” Ruai told the state-owned television (SSBC) on Sunday.

“The anti-peace elements took advantage and they continued to carry out attacks on the positions of our forces and all they have been doing is to fight back in self-deference,” he added.

The official said government forces have been trying to the contain rebels from infiltrating oilfields with the intention of destroying them.

Meanwhile, the armed opposition faction loyal to the country’s First Vice-President Gen. Taban Deng Gai said they were attacked by what he described as “anti-peace” elements in Northern Liech state.

“We predict the aim of the attack is to provoke the situation in Bentiu and cause insecurity in hope of a full out to halt the planned resumption of oil production in Northern Liech state,” Dickson Gatluak, spokesperson of the opposition faction, said in a statement.

He further claimed rebels loyal to former First Vice-President, Riek Machar attacked their defensive lines at Panakuach, Unity state oilfields, Tor Abieth and Tharwangyiela.

“We urge the international monitors, NGOs [Non-Governmental Organisations] and the international community to monitor with maximum attention the situation in Bentiu,” stressed Gatluak.

The official reiterated the commitment of the armed opposition faction loyal to Gai towards the implementation of the 2015 peace deal but warned that continued aggression from the rebels will retaliation from pro-government forces in self-defence.

The South Sudanese conflict started in December 2013 when President Kiir accused Machar of a coup attempt. Since then, tens of thousands of people were killed and over 2 million displaced.