July 20, 2014 (JUBA) – Forces loyal to South Sudan former vice-president, Riek Machar claimed they were fully in control of Nasir, a strategic Upper Nile state town.
A military spokesperson for the rebels said forces under the command of Maj. Gen. Gathoth Gatkuoth liberated Nasir town from pro-government forces at dawn.
“The liberation of Nasir came about after repeated futile attempts made by Kiir’s forces to arrest Gen. Gathoth at his twin bases in Maan-Deng and Jigmir,” said Brig. Gen. Lul Ruai Koang in statement extended to Sudan Tribune.
He further said their forces have for the last three days been fighting in self-defense in order to “protect and prevent unlawfully arrest of the top military commander”.
“Today at dawn, Kiir’s forces were finally repulsed, pursued at neck-breaking speed and as result, Nasir was captured at 700am this morning,” partly noted the rebels’ statement.
The opposition forces also claimed to have captured three government tanks and allegedly destroyed a number of trucks during the assault on Nasir.
South Sudan army (SPLA) spokesperson, Phillip Aguer earlier told Radio Tamajuz that fighting was ongoing between pro-govermment forces and rebels in Nasir.
But Gordon Buay, a member of other armed groups integration committee disputed the rebel claims, saying opposition forces were repulsed out of Nasir town by pro-government forces.
“The group that attacked the airport and commissioner’s office resisted for hours. However, the SPLA forces defeated them at 12:30 PM. At the Airport, around 230 rebels were found dead,” Buay said in a statement obtained by Sudan Tribune.
IGAD CONDEMNS ATTACK
The special envoys from the regional bloc (IGAD) have strongly condemn this attack in Nasir by forces of the SPLM/A–In Opposition, describing it a blatant violation of Cessation of Hostilities (COH) Agreement, signed between the Government of the Republic of South Sudan and the rebels on 23 January.
“While the casualties of this attack are yet to be assessed, the mediation team is saddened by the continued loss of lives not only of combatants, but of vulnerable groups like women and children,” IGAD said in a statement.
Both warring parties, the regional bloc said, had on 10 June pledged to “end the war now” and establish a transitional government within 60 days.
“In view of the above and of reports of rising tensions in other areas, the IGAD Special Envoys appeal to the Parties to remain committed to the Agreements signed and to exercise maximum restraints and desist from any further violations,” IGAD further observed.
Talks between the two parties, currently on hold, is seen as the best alternative to the country’s seven-month old conflict that has killed thousands and displaced nearly 1.5 million people.