South Sudan national army, SPLA, says it killed 40 rebels in the latest clash on Thursday in Bieh state’s Waat area.
Brigadier Dickson Gatluak, spokesman for the Sudan People’s Liberation Army-in opposition (SPLA-IO) faction under first vice president Taban Deng Gai, told Xinhua news agency on Friday that together with government troops they killed 40 rebels who attacked their positions at Waat.
“The 40 rebels killed were from the rebel side, and two people from our side were injured in the fighting. The aggression was from the side of the rebels,” Gatluak told the agency.
This came after another clash Tuesday in the border town of Yei between the warring factions killed 4 soldiers.
Lam Paul Gabriel, deputy military spokesman of the SPLA-in opposition rebels allied to former first vice president Riek Machar, denied the number of death alleged by the government.
“We didn’t incur any single loss but we have five with minor injuries,” he said, accusing government troops (SPLA) of provoking the fighting.
“The government forces got out of their trenches in Waat, but were repulsed by our forces and they are still in their trenches up to now,” Lam told Xinhua.
South Sudan descended into violence in December 2013 after political dispute between President Salva Kiir and his former deputy Machar led to fighting that pitied mostly Dinka ethnic soldiers loyal to Kiir against Machar’s Nuer ethnic group.
A peace agreement was signed in 2015 but was shattered in July 2016 when the rival factions resumed fighting in the capital forcing Machar to flee into exile.
UN says SPLA killed 114 civilians
Reuters reports that pro-government forces killed at least 114 civilians in and around Yei town from July 2016 to January 2017, according to the U.N. human rights office.
In a report released Friday, UN says SPLA also committed an unknown number of rapes and incidents of torture and looting, the U.N. said in the report.
Another 45 people were killed by the SPLA in attacks in other towns this April, the monitors of a failed ceasefire said in a separate report on Friday.
“Attacks were committed with an alarming degree of brutality and, like elsewhere in the country, appeared to have an ethnic dimension,” the U.N. said in the report, adding that the incidents may constitute war crimes or crimes against humanity.
“These cases included attacks on funerals and indiscriminate shelling of civilians; cases of sexual violence perpetrated against women and girls, including those fleeing fighting; often committed in front of the victims’ families.”
SPLA spokesperson Col. Santo Domic Chol told Reuters on Friday that the report was “baseless”. “This is not the first time the U.N. has accused the SPLA and tried to portray us as enemies of the people,” he said.
“The SPLA is one of the biggest military institutions in the country and it accommodates people from different background and the whole SPLA cannot go out and rape citizens… so it has to be specific that we have seen two or three SPLA soldiers in such location committing such crimes,” he said.