World Bulletin / News Desk
South Sudan government troops have recaptured the strategic northern town of Leer in the oil-rich Unity State, near the country’s border with its northen neighbor the Republic of the Sudan.
The fall of the town was confirmed by South Sudan Defense Minister Kuol Manyang Juuk, in a telephone interview with Anadolu Agency (AA) from Juba.
"Yes, I can confirm that Leer has fallen into the hands of government troops," Juuk said.
The town has been under the control of rebels for more than six weeks.
The rebel commander in the area, General James Loll Ruai Koang, also confirmed to local reporters that the town had been taken by government troops.
Koang declined to provide causality figures, but accused the troops of heavily damaging the town.
The capture of Leer comes at a time when both sides have accused each other of violating a ceasefire ahead of fresh peace talks in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa this coming Friday.
South Sudan has been shaken by violence since mid-December, when President Salva Kiir accused Machar of standing behind a failed coup attempt against his regime.
The violence has already claimed the lives of more than 10,000 people.
Concluding a three-day visit to the country, Amos Valerie, UN undersecretary-general for humanitarian affairs and emergency relief coordinator, said Wednesday that some 3.7 million people in South Sudan were now severely food insecure, while more than 820,000 had been displaced.
Following weeks of talks, the warring rivals signed an agreement on January 23 to end nearly six weeks of fighting.
S. Sudanese governor accuses rebels of killing 66 people
The governor of South Sudan's Warrap State has accused rebels loyal to sacked vice-president Riek Machar of killing scores of people in her region on Friday.
"These were rebels of Riek and youth from Unity State [who] came through Puoc and Mayandit areas," Governor Nyandeng Malek told Anadolu Agency late Sunday, commenting on the weekend attacks which killed at least 66 people.
She insisted that it was difficult to deploy troops in the swamps terrain of the state.
But the governor pledged to do continue working to secure the state from more such attacks in the future.
Earlier today, the local community accused gunmen, dressed in military uniform, of attacking several areas of Warrap State on Friday, killing 66 civilians and injuring 120 others.
"Suspected rebels loyal to rebel leader Riek Machar Teny attacked Alabek Payam in Tonj North County, Warrap State, on Jan 31," they said in a statement.
"The attack killed 66 unarmed civilians and wounded more than 120 people in two Payams while many children, girls and women could not be accounted for their whereabouts," they added.
"The Youth (Gelweng), however, retrieved thousands of cattle that were raided by the rebels."
The statement urged protection for the civilian population.
When contacted for comment earlier in the day, army spokesperson Col. Philip Aguer told AA they were still investigating the report.
Last Mod: 03 Şubat 2014, 09:26