South Sudan army retakes areas from opposition forces

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South Sudan's President Salva Kiir delivers a speech during the launch of the National Dialogue committee in Juba, South Sudan May 22, 2017.

JOHANNESBURG – The South Sudanese army has retaken full control of the areas in Yei River State previously held by the armed opposition forces, the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-In Opposition (SPLM-IO), under the overall leadership and command of the former First Vice President, Riek Machar, the Sudan Tribune reports.

Colonel Malong Agat, the commander of the government troops in Yei, said his forces had regained control of Mitika and Lasu after forcing the opposition to withdraw.

“All these areas are our under control and the security situation is calm. There was no fighting and so we don’t have casualties to report. There was no resistance. It was an entry without exchange of gunfire,” said Agat.

Situated close to the border with Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo, Yei River State has seen several rounds of intense fighting after government and opposition forces launched attacks and counter-attacks against each other several times over the year.

SPLA-IO Deputy Military Spokesperson, Colonel Lam Paul Gabriel, also confirmed in a statement that government forces had launched an offensive towards Lasu in Yei River State capturing Mitika at night.

Gabriel added that the government forces had destroyed the properties of civilians during the attack and raped the women they had captured.

“Early this morning, the enemy forces went straight to the SPLA-IO base in Lasu and took full control of it after our forces were advised to withdraw to avoid more civilian casualties”, said the opposition spokesman in a statement released on Monday following the takeover.

The statement added that SPLA-IO forces also ambushed a government convoy which included rebels from Sudan’s Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) from Sudan’s Darfur region.

The attack followed opposition claims that the government forces, in collaboration with the JEM rebels, were taking weapons and ammunition from Wau to Raja to help Governor Rizik Zachariah to attack SPLA-IO bases as part of the government campaign to widen their areas of control during this dry season.

“The SPLA-IO forces destroyed two government trucks and captured one killing 35 government soldiers combined with JEM militias and injuring several,” said the statement.

Meanwhile, six aid workers are missing in South Sudan after clashes broke out Sunday evening between government and opposition soldiers near the north-western town of Raga.

The government blamed the opposition forces loyal to former Vice President Riek Machar for the abductions, and subsequently demanded the aid workers be freed.

The missing humanitarian workers are from three organisations, two international groups, HealthNet and Solidarity International, and one local aid group.

The ongoing violence and insecurity in South Sudan continues simultaneously as regional bloc, the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD)-brokered high-level revitalisation forum takes place in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa in an endeavour to ensure the full implementation of South Sudan’s peace agreement signed in August 2015.