South Sudan army dislodges rebels from oil town

South Sudan army dislodges rebels from oil town

Thursday, October 30, 2014 9:30 am

SPLA soldiers : repulse rebels in Bentiu

SPLA soldiers : repulse rebels in Bentiu

South Sudan’s army has repulsed rebel attacks on the key northern oil hub town of Bentiu, the defence minster said Thursday, saying many had been killed or wounded in fierce fighting.

“We have a lot of wounded people we are trying to evacuate from Bentiu,” Defence Minister Kuol Manyang told AFP Thursday, adding that the town remained under the control of the army.

“Bentiu is under control, there is calm now,” he said.

After skirmishes outside the town earlier this week, rebels on Wednesday attacked the centre, with aid workers nearby reporting heavy machine gunfire and explosions.

The fighting marks an end to a brief lull in hostilities in the country’s 10-month-old civil war after the end of the rainy season which made many roads impassable.

The town, state capital of the previously key oil-producing Unity state, has changed hands several times since the war broke out in December 2013, but has been in government hands since May.

When rebels loyal to ousted vice president Riek Machar stormed the town in April, they unleashed two days of ethnic slaughter as they hunted down civilians sheltering in mosques, churches and a hospital, according to the UN.

The defence minister said he did not have exact numbers of those killed and wounded, and whether they were soldiers or civilians.

“There must be deaths, because that is war,” Manyang said.

Both sides in the conflict — Machar’s forces and troops loyal to President Salva Kiir — have been accused of war crimes including mass killings, rape, attacks on hospitals and places of worship and recruiting child soldiers.

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