JUBA, Oct. 3 (Xinhua) -- The South Sudan army on Monday dismissed claims that it lost control over the border town of Morobo, some 220 km southwest of the capital Juba, to opposition forces loyal to former First Vice President Riek Machar.
Army spokesman Lul Ruai Koang told Xinhua in an interview that there was unrest in Morobo days ago but calm was later restored.
"About three days ago there were two rival youth groups who had social disagreements and they started fighting; the police fired some shots. The situation returned to calm and this was picked up by the SPLA-IO (Machar's force) to claim control over Morobo," Koang said.
Machar's spokesman James Gatdet Dak earlier claimed the SPLA-IO had taken control of Morobo, near Yei town which has been affected by renewed fighting between government troops and Machar-led forces which broke out in early July.
However Koang said the army had cleared and opened up the Juba-Yei Road, which leads to Kaya and Morobo areas near the border with Uganda and DR Congo respectively.
Armed groups have recently been staging ambushes on vehicles along major roads leading out of the capital Juba, killing a sizable number of people. Last week, nine people were killed by unknown gunmen along the Juba-Kajo Keji road in an area southeast of the capital.
Meanwhile, the Minister of Information in Yei River state, Stephen Wani Onesimo, told Xinhua there were rumors about fighting in Morobo but it was "just (the) opening up of roads" by the army.
He also said that calm had returned to Yei, where the UN refugee agency says about 100,000 people were trapped due to deteriorating security situation.
"The people have been trapped for the last two months, the roads had been blocked, but now even the communication network is back in Yei," he said.
South Sudan descended into civil war in December 2013 after President Slava Kiir accused his sacked deputy Machar of plotting a coup. Machar denied the accusation but then formed a rebel force (SPLA-IO). The war has left tens of thousands dead and more than two million uprooted from their homes.
A peace deal signed last August led to a short-lived unity government formed in April, but was shattered by the renewed fighting.