June 3, 2015 (ADDIS ABABA) – South Sudan’s opposition forces led by former vice president, Riek Machar, said they inflicted heavy casualties on government troops loyal to president Salva Kiir on Wednesday after the latter allegedly carried out major offensive against the rebel positions north of the Unity state’s capital, Bentiu.
- Soldiers from the South Sudanese army (SPLA) celebrate after recapturing Unity state capital Bentiu from rebel forces in January (Photo: Reuters)
Spokesperson for the opposition leader Riek Machar said they repulsed a massive coordinated attack by combined government forces from different army divisions who attempted to recapture their strategic positions in northern part of the state.
“SPLM/SPLA forces in Unity state have repulsed a massive coordinated offensive by forces loyal to president Salva Kiir on Wednesday morning at Rot Riak (Lalok) town, north of the state capital, Bentiu,” James Gatdet Dak said in a press statement to the media on Wednesday.
“The massive attack involved thousands of government soldiers from various army Divisions 4,3 and 5 including Tiger Division as well as pro-government militia forces of Matthew Puljang,” he said.
He said the attack occurred at 9am at Rot Riak area situated at the main road junction between Panakuach and Unity oilfields.
Their forces, he said, repulsed the attack with huge casualties inflicted on pro-government forces, adding that seven tanks in good condition were among the war equipment captured from the government.
“Juba forces were therefore dispersed and ran in disarray in the direction of Mayom or Warrap state,” he added.
Dak said the aim of the major offensive by forces loyal to the government was to try to recapture oilfields under the control of the opposition forces in the state.
He also said another pro-government force attempted to push towards Pariang area but were defeated and repulsed as well.
Other rebel sources told Sudan Tribune that their forces were matching towards the state capital, Bentiu, in retaliation of the government’s offensive. They also said they were in full control of the Unity oilfields, north of Bentiu.
Dak accused the government of continuing with the “full scale war project” which he said was in violation of the cessation of hostilities agreement signed by the warring parties in South Sudan since 23 January 2014.
SOUTH SUDAN ARMY REPULSES WAU ATTACK
Meanwhile, officials in South Sudan’s Western Bahr el Ghazal state on Wednesday said government forces managed to repulse yet another attack by rebels in Wau county, about 50km away from the state capital.
Western Bahr el Ghazal state’s minister for local government, Angelo Taban Baijio, told reporters in the capital, Wau, said fighting lasted for several hours on Wednesday when forces allied to the opposition faction led by former vice president, Riek Machar, attempted to take over Kpaile Payam near Wau.
According to the official, rebel forces experienced heavy losses in the fight over the control of the area, but could not say how many were killed from both sides. He said the offensive by the South Sudanese army (SPLA) was in response to Sunday’s attack initiated by the rebel forces in the area.
“The SPLA forces have maximally defeated the rebels as a response to the last Sunday attack in Bazia Payam 50km south-west of the state capital,” said the minister.
He attributed the rising armed rebellion in the state to the administrative differences since 2012 in the state.
“What is now happening in Wau county is a continuation of the December 2012’s violence of which the state capital has witnessed a serious protest over the allocation of the county’s headquarter from Wau town to Bagari. These are the same people today supporting and joining the rebellion,” he said.
The minister warned that any civilian and those who were arrested and jailed for punishment sentence and released after their jail term ended seen supporting the rebellion would be dealt with.
State government officials have been accusing citizens in Wau county of collaborating with the rebels and not providing early warning information to the authorities about the movement of the rebel forces in the area.
They cited the recent attack on Bazia town, 50km away from the capital and wondered how the opposition forces could reach the area without being detected by the citizens.