NAIROBI, KENYA - The South Sudan army says it killed more than 50 rebels and members of militia groups and wounded several others during clashes Sunday west of the town of Malakal.
Over the weekend, army spokesman Brigadier General Lul Ruai Koang escorted a group of journalists to the scene of the clashes in the Upper Nile region, where he said government forces inflicted heavy causalities on forces loyal to former first vice president Riek Machar.
“Over 56 rebels were killed. We captured over 200 different types of weapons and the two places they attacked, Alelo and Warjwok, remain up to now under our control. They are nowhere to be seen,” Koang said.
Koang says the death toll among the SPLA In Opposition forces could rise.
He says SPLA forces lost four fighters and at least 20 others were wounded in clashes that began Friday evening.
He says the fighting began when rebels, whom he called terrorists, attacked SPLA positions at Warjwok and Alelo villages, about 15 kilometers south of Malakal near strategic oil fields in the Upper Nile region.
Koang said rebels also ambushed commercial vehicles transporting civilians in Equatoria State.
“So it is intensification of operations against government positions by terrorists of Riek Machar after he had declared war in Khartoum,” the general said.
South Sudan In Focus could not independently verify Koang’s claims.
SPLA-IO deputy military spokesman Dickson Gatluak said it was his forces that came under attack from government troops in Upper Nile. Gatluak said his forces will continue to defend themselves against attacks by government forces.
“We have realized that there is no political settlement in Juba, there is not any political space in Juba, so we have to organize ourselves because the government has failed,” Gatluak said.
The weekend clashes are the latest violation of the cessation of hostilities signed by the two warring parties in the August 2015 peace agreement.
Machar proclaimed the 2015 peace deal dead during an exclusive interview with South Sudan in Focus late last week.
Malakal has changed hands several times between the government and rebel forces since fighting began in December 2013. Residents of the town have witnessed atrocities, including the killing of scores of civilians by both government and SPLA-IO forces.