South Sudanese rebels and government forces clashed around a town in the oil-producing northeast, each side blaming the other for the violence that may complicate regional efforts to end a four-year civil war.
The army took full control of Nasir town on Monday after insurgents retreated, rebel official Mabior Garang Mabior said by phone. He accused the government of launching an “all-out attack” to crush the opposition and undermine peace talks currently underway in neighboring Ethiopia. Mabior’s delegation, which represents the largest rebel group, walked out of Monday morning’s negotiations in protest, he said.
Army spokesman Lul Ruai Koang said that troops clashed with rebels in Nasir on Sunday and Monday. Addressing reporters in South Sudan’s capital, Juba, he accused the insurgents of starting the clashes by capturing a soldier, a claim the rebels denied. There was no immediate independent confirmation of the violence.
The conflict that began in the world’s youngest country in December 2013 has claimed tens of thousands of lives. New peace talks were convened in late 2017 between President Salva Kiir’s government, the main rebel group led by his former deputy Riek Machar, and other armed factions. A cease-fire that began Dec. 24 was broken hours later, and fighting has sporadically continued.