YEI, SOUTH SUDAN - South Sudan's government and a rebel group are blaming each other for the killing of five civilians Thursday on the outskirts of the town of Yei.
Yei River state information minister Zachariah Duku Enoka accused the rebel National Salvation Front (NAS) forces of carrying out the attack. NAS leader General Thomas Cirilo refused to sign a September peace deal designed to end South Sudan's five-year civil war.
NAS spokesman Samuel Suba Manase denied that any NAS forces killed civilians in the area and accused Yei River authorities of being behind the killings.
"The government has moved deep into the villages in the sites of Morobo and Ombaci and was shooting civilians suspected of being supporters of NAS. We are not responsible for any killing," Manase told VOA's South Sudan in Focus.
Attack happens near Yei
Survivors of the attack said they were attacked while traveling on the Yei-Lasu road seven miles southwest of Yei town.
"They directed us some few meters into the bush and hit me with a machete on the head and I fell down. They removed my clothes and one of my colleagues whom we came together with was cut on the head and died on the spot," said the survivor, who asked to be identified only as "Peter" for security reasons.
He said the unidentified armed men tied down a young boy and said, "Let the boy die."
Peter said he also saw five bodies lying on the ground in Rubeke.
At Yei civil hospital, Dr. Rufas Bojo said Friday that Peter was listed in stable condition after undergoing an operation on his head.
"He was cut in the skull about 15-20 cm long and several other injuries behind the neck. We are able to treat all the wounds," Bojo told VOA.
Another survivor of the attack told VOA that fighting between government forces and NAS has raged for days in several villages of Yei River state's Otogo County.
According to the Cessation of Hostilities agreement, all forces in South Sudan must protect civilians and allow the free movement of civilians.
South Sudan's civil war erupted in December 2013.