News / Africa

    South Sudan Army Says it Has Recaptured Bentiu

    • Three children walk through a spontaneous camp for internally displaced persons at the United Nations Mission to South Sudan (UNMISS) base in Juba, Jan. 9, 2014.
    • People unload the few belongings on Jan. 9, 2014 at Minkammen, South Sudan, that they were able to bring with them to camps for the displaced.
    • Displaced men recuperate from their injuries as they rest on the floor at a United Nations hospital in Tomping camp, near Juba, Jan. 7, 2014.
    • A displaced man, undergoing treatments for his injuries, is seen at a United Nations hospital at Tomping camp, near Juba, Jan. 7, 2014.
    • Soldiers from Rwanda serving under United Nations Mission in South Sudan keep watch from an observatory point at Tomping camp, near Juba, Jan. 7, 2014.
    • Displaced people wash their clothes in a drainage canal at Tomping camp, near Juba, Jan. 7, 2014.
    • Displaced people prepare their meals at Tomping camp near Juba, Jan. 7, 2014.
    • Refugees who fled the recent violence in South Sudan and crossed the border into Uganda, settle in the village of Ochaya, Jan. 7, 2013.
    • Refugees who fled the recent violence in South Sudan and crossed the border into Uganda rest and await transportation from a transit center in Koboko, Jan. 6, 2014.
    • Refugees who fled the recent violence in South Sudan and crossed the border into Uganda are seen in Koboko, Jan. 6, 2014.
    Displaced South Sudanese
    Charlton Doki
    South Sudanese government troops have recaptured the town of Bentiu in oil-producing Unity state, army spokesman Philip Aguer told VOA Friday.

    Government troops retook the town at 2:30 p.m. after a two-hour battle with rebel forces loyal to former Vice President Riek Machar, Aguer said.

    There was no immediate independent confirmation of the claim.

    Aguer said the army's next target will be to recapture the capital of Jonglei state, Bor.

    South Sudan army spokesman Philip Aguer, shown at a press conference in 2013, says government forces recaptured Bentiu on Friday, Jan. 10, 2014.South Sudan army spokesman Philip Aguer, shown at a press conference in 2013, says government forces recaptured Bentiu on Friday, Jan. 10, 2014.
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    South Sudan army spokesman Philip Aguer, shown at a press conference in 2013, says government forces recaptured Bentiu on Friday, Jan. 10, 2014.
    South Sudan army spokesman Philip Aguer, shown at a press conference in 2013, says government forces recaptured Bentiu on Friday, Jan. 10, 2014.
    Bentiu and Bor fell to forces loyal to Machar days after South Sudan was plunged into conflict on Dec. 15 when renegade soldiers attacked an army headquarters building in Juba.

    President Salva Kiir has said the fighting was an attempted coup led by Machar, but the former vice president has denied the claim.

    The two sides in the conflict have sent delegations to Addis Ababa for peace talks, but the negotiations have struggled to get off the ground.

    Unity is one of two states in South Sudan that produce oil, the backbone of the country's economy.

    Foreign companies, which are vital to South Sudan's oil industry, pulled their workers out of Unity state around a week after the unrest started, citing the deteriorating security situation.

    Rebel forces also briefly held the town of Malakal in Upper Nile state, which produces the bulk of South Sudan's oil -- around 85 percent -- but government forces retook the state capital in late December.


    Bentiu devastated by fighting


    Bentiu has been devastated during nearly one month of violence in South Sudan.

    During a visit to the town, United Nations' humanitarian official Toby Lanzer described in a series of Twitter messages Wednesday how the market had been looted and destroyed, and heavily armed men who said they back Machar were the only people seen in the city.

    Most civilians had fled the town or sought refuge at the U.N. base in Bentiu as word spread that the government was planning an offensive to retake the Unity state capital.

    The United Nations says more than 60,000 are sheltering on U.N. bases throughout the country, including 8,000 in Bentiu.

    Some 250,000 people have been displaced by the fighting, and while no official death toll has been released, a top U.N. official said Thursday it is  likely to be "very substantially in excess of the figure of 1,000 that we know for sure about.”

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