Rebels attack key oil town in South Sudan
Iran Press TV
Tue Feb 18, 2014 1:40PM GMT
Renewed heavy fighting has erupted in South Sudan, with rebel forces attacking the capital of the oil-rich state of Upper Nile, military sources say.
The military sources said on Tuesday that the rebels have launched a major assault on Malakal.
South Sudan army spokesman Philip Aguer confirmed reports of ongoing fighting.
Local residents say warplanes -- possibly Ugandan -- were flying over the town in support of government troops.
The UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) said several bases where thousands of civilians are sheltering had been cut off.
'Our compounds have been cut off in some of the crossfire,' UNMISS spokesman Joe Contreras said.
Malakal was once in the hands of rebels loyal to former vice president, Riek Machar, but is now controlled by government troops.
The fighting between troops of South Sudan President Salva Kiir, who is from the Dinka ethnic group, and his former deputy, Machar, a Nuer, erupted around the capital, Juba, on December 15, 2013.
The conflict soon turned into an all-out war between the army and defectors, with the violence taking on an ethnic dimension that pitted the president's tribe against Machar's.
The fighting comes despite a ceasefire signed on January 23 to end weeks of heavy fighting which led to the death of thousands of people in the world's youngest nation.
The international community has repeatedly urged both sides to respect the ceasefire.
The United Nations estimates that at least 10,000 people have been killed and some 400,000 fled their homes since the breakout of hostilities between the two sides more than two months ago.
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