Rebels in South Sudan have captured the key town of Bor, the country’s military said Thursday, as fighting continues in the aftermath of an apparent coup attempt by forces loyal to former vice president Riek Machar.
"Our soldiers have lost control of Bor to the force of Riek Machar late on Wednesday," said army spokesman Philip Aguer.
"There was shooting last night... we don't have information on casualties or the displaced in the town, as operations are ongoing."
According to UN figures, at least 19 civilians have been killed in violence in Bor, which lies some 200 kilometres (125 miles) north of the capital Juba in the eastern state of Jonglei, one of the most volatile regions in the country.
Tensions have been mounting in South Sudan since President Salva Kiir fired Machar as his deputy in July.
Fighting between army units broke out in Juba last Sunday in what Kiir has claimed was a coup attempt by Machar’s forces.
Machar, who is now on the run, has denied any coup attempt, however, and in turn accuses Kiir of using it as an excuse to purge his political rivals.
Although Juba itself has since become calm, violence appears to be spreading to other parts of the oil-rich East African nation leading to fears of a return to civil war in the world’s youngest country.
Ethnic rivalries appear to be playing a significant role in the fighting, with the clashes apparently pitting soldiers from the majority Dinka tribe of President Kiir against those from Machar's Nuer ethnic group.
The South Sudan government said Wednesday that at least 500 people, most of them soldiers, have been killed in fighting since Sunday and at least 700 more wounded.
UN chief Ban Ki-moon told reporters Wednesday that South Sudan was experiencing a political crisis that “urgently needs to be dealt with through political dialogue.” Ban said he urged Kiir “to resume dialogue with the political opposition”.
South Sudan has been plagued by ethnic violence since it peacefully broke away from Sudan in 2011 after decades of civil war.
(FRANCE 24 with AFP and AP)
Date created : 2013-12-19