JUBA, SOUTH SUDAN — Dozens of people, including civilians and South Sudanese army soldiers, have been treated for serious injuries sustained in heavy fighting in Jonglei state between government forces and rebels led by David Yau Yau, a spokesman for the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said Tuesday.
"We are seeing fairly serious injuries," ICRC spokesman in Juba, Ewan Watson, said.
"The majority of the wounded are weapon-wounded, wounds to the chest. And some of them are fairly serious. We have seen use of light weapons and other forms of fairly heavy warfare material,” he said.
Locals have told the ICRC that people have been killed in the clashes, but the aid agency has not been able to confirm the reports of fatalities.
“We understand from what people tell us that there have been deaths as a result of these clashes, but we can not give you a number because we are not in position to verify that information,” Watson said.
Watson said he fears there may be more people wounded in the fighting, who are unable to be evacuated to the surgical hub the ICRC has set up in Pibor, in Jonglei state.
"We are concerned that there are wounded out there in remote places who aren’t getting the medical attention that they require. That is the worry and we are trying to do all that we can to resolve that," he said.
The latest round of fighting started more than two weeks ago after the government launched what military officials said was a final move to crush the rebellion led by David Yau Yau.
The SPLA vowed last month to defeat Yau Yau by the end of the dry season, which usually runs until May.
The United Nations Mission in South Sudan has expressed concern about the plight of civilians in Jonglei and moved peacekeepers into the state ahead of the government offensive against the rebels.
Yau Yau first rebelled against Juba after he failed to win a parliamentary seat in the 2010 general elections, accusing the ruling SPLM party of rigging the elections.
In 2011, he accepted an amnesty offer from President Salva Kiir and returned to Juba where he was promoted to the rank of SPLA general.
But last year he fled to Khartoum and started a rebellion against Juba in his home county of Pibor, in Jonglei state.
Rebels led by Yau Yau have been accused of being behind a cattle raid in January that killed more than 100 people, mainly women and children but also including several SPLA soldiers.
South Sudan accuses Sudan of supporting Yau Yau’s rebellion to block Juba’s plans to build an alternative oil pipeline through Jonglei state and Ethiopia. South Sudan recently agreed to restart oil production after a row with Sudan over pipeline fees. Oil produced in South Sudan currently has to transit through Sudanese pipelines to seaports in the north, for export.
Khartoum has repeatedly denied having any ties to Yau Yau’s rebels and has counter-accused Juba of supporting rebels in South Kordofan and Blue Nile states.