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140 Rebels, SPLA Killed in Latest South Sudan Fighting


Rebel fighters hold up their rifles as they walk in front of a bushfire in a rebel controlled territory in Upper Nile State, South Sudan, Feb. 13, 2014.

Rebel fighters hold up their rifles as they walk in front of a bushfire in a rebel controlled territory in Upper Nile State, South Sudan, Feb. 13, 2014.

A South Sudan army spokesman said Friday that 140 fighters, most of them from the opposition forces, were killed in fresh rounds of fighting that broke out in Jonglei and Upper Nile states less than a week ago.

Philip Aguer, a spokesman for the Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA) said 83 rebels were killed in clashes in Nassir, in Upper Nile state, and 52 in Ayod in Jonglei state.

The SPLA lost five soldiers in the clashes, and 18 were wounded, he said, adding that the toll is expected to rise as sporadic fighting continues in the region.

Officials in Jonglei state on Tuesday accused rebels loyal to former vice president Riek Machar of attacking SPLA positions in Ayod County.

Those clashes came days after fresh fighting erupted in Nassir between government and opposition forces.

The United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) said the fighting in Nassir was "the most serious resumption of hostilities" since President Salva Kiir and Machar recommitted to a cessation of hostilities agreement signed in January.

The two sides are set to resume peace talks on July 30 after a month-long adjournment, the negotiations' mediator, Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), announced this week.

Fighting dying down

Aguer said the SPLA defeated the rebel forces in Nassir and ch`ased them out of the town. He said the worst of the fighting appears to be over.

"In Ayod, there is still tension of shelling, but that is not a serious to us and the forces in Ayod... We are not worried of any continued hostilities,” he said.

But a spokesman for the opposition said his side had beaten a tactical retreat.

"It is part of the overall military tactics. We conducted an organized withdrawal and we pulled outside Nassir town," opposition military spokesman Lul Ruai Koang said.

Joseph Contreras, the acting spokesman for UNMISS, said U.N. officials in Nassir saw opposition forces pulling out of the town on Thursday.

Aguer said the SPLA has deployed additional forces in Nassir to maintain stability in the area.

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