South Sudanese soldiers have killed at least 28 members of David Yau Yau’s rebel group and recovered several weapons in clashes in Jonglei state, army spokesman Colonel Philip Aguer said Tuesday.
Ten SPLA soldiers were wounded in Monday's fighting, which was sparked when rebels ambushed a group of South Sudanese soldiers, Aguer said.
The SPLA recovered three rocket-propelled grenade launchers and anti-tank weapons after the fighting, Aguer said.
The fighting may mark another shift in Juba's stance on the Yau Yau rebellion, which is accused of being behind numerous attacks on civilians, including the deadliest cattle raid in two years.
Last week, Juba was making peace overtures to Yau Yau, with Vice President Riek Machar travelling to Jonglei state to follow up on an effort by lawmakers to bring Yau Yau to the negotiating table.
Less than two weeks earlier, South Sudan's Deputy Defense Minister Majak D'Agot Atem insisted the government would not negotiate with Yau Yau, and vowed to defeat his rebel movement by "the end of the dry season," which usually runs until May.
On Monday, Aguer said, "All the efforts to bring (Yau Yau) into reconciliation have failed; the only way is to fight him.
”Yau Yau began his rebellion against Juba in 2010 after failing to win a seat in parliament in the Sudanese general elections.
He accepted President Salva Kiir's offer of amnesty following South Sudan's independence in 2011, but re-launched his rebellion in April last year.
Yau Yau’s rebels are accused of being behind a deadly cattle raid in Jonglei in January, in which more than 100 people, including 15 SPLA soldiers, were killed.
That attack was the deadliest reported in the state since the United Nations said 900 people were killed there in 2011, in violence that officials also linked to cattle rustling.