South Sudan gov’t official confirms fighting, disputes rebel takeover claim

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South Sudan’s army on Tuesday denied rebel claims that opposition troops loyal to former Vice-President Riek Machar had seized six important towns in the country’s north and southwest.

The military’s acting spokesperson, Col. Santos Dominic, told Anadolu Agency there had been clashes in some parts of the country but denied the rebel claims.

“Rebels loyal to Riek Machar, who are anti-peace elements, attacked our positions in Sobat and Latjor states and we repulsed them … They are not in control of Nasir, Mandeng in Upper Nile including Morobo in Equatoria nor any towns as they claimed,” Col. Dominic said.

He said there had been fighting in and around these towns, but they were still controlled by the government.

South Sudanese armed opposition forces on Monday claimed to have taken six localities in southern and northern parts of the country following heavy fighting.

The rebels’ deputy military spokesperson, Maj. Dickson Gatluak, claimed in a statement new victories in Upper Nile and the Equatoria region and said their forces controlled up to 90 percent of Nasir area in Latjor state.

Both sides in the four-year civil war have claimed military advances in recent days.

South Sudan slid into civil war in December 2013 after President Salva Kiir accused his long-time rival and sacked deputy Machar of plotting a coup.

Machar denied the accusation but then mobilized a rebel force.

A shaky peace deal  igned in August 2015 between the rival leaders — amid UN threats of sanctions — led to the formation of a coalition government in April, but this was shattered by renewed fighting.

Machar, who was later reinstated as Kiir’s deputy fled Juba after new fighting and was later sacked again. He has since called for his supporters to topple Kiir’s government.