South Sudanese rebels storm strategic northern town
Iran Press TV
Sat May 16, 2015 9:2AM
Rebel forces from Sudan People's Liberation Movement-in-Opposition (SPLM-IO) have launched a major offensive in South Sudan's conflict-ridden northern state of Upper Nile, triggering fierce exchanges of fire in the area.
Authorities said the rebels crossed the White Nile river on boat, and stormed the strategic northern town of Malakal, situated approximately 650 kilometers (400 miles) north of capital, Juba, just before the night fell on Friday.
'The rebels of Riek Machar have attacked Malakal from all directions, from east, west, north and south, and the fighting up to now is continuing,' Information Minister Michael Makuei Lueth stated.
He added that government troops from the Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA) have so far 'managed to repulse the rebels' and prevent them from gaining control of the town, which serves as the capital of the oil-rich Upper Nile State.
The minister further claimed that Major General Johnson Olony, who commands Shilluk militia in the northern South Sudanese state, had helped SPLA-N members mount the assault against Malakal.
'It was Olony who transported the rebels across the river bank to Malakal,' he alleged.
South Sudan plunged into chaos in December 2013, when fighting erupted between troops loyal to President Salva Kiir and defectors led by his former deputy and current rebel leader Riek Machar around the capital, Juba. The clashes have left tens of thousands of people dead and forced almost two million people from their homes.
On May 7, the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) announced that the number of internally displaced persons (IDPs) seeking refuge with it has grown to 53,000 following the latest bout of fighting in the Northeastern African country.
Both army soldiers and rebel forces in South Sudan have been accused of widespread atrocities during the violence. The two sides have held several rounds of peace talks, but the negotiations have so far failed to produce a lasting truce deal between the conflicting sides.
South Sudan gained independence in July 2011 after its people overwhelmingly voted in a referendum for a split from Sudan.
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