South Sudanese army denies planned offensive on rebel stronghold

Source: Xinhua| 2017-07-18 01:46:45|Editor: yan
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NAIROBI, July 17 (Xinhua) -- South Sudan's Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA) on Monday denied planning an offensive on the rebel stronghold of Pagak near the Ethiopian border.

SPLA spokesman Brigadier Lul Ruai Koang told Xinhua following revelations by the head of UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) David Shearer last week that government troops were moving on to attack the SPLA-in opposition (SPLA-IO) headquarters located in the northeastern part of the war-torn country.

"That's not true, we are not moving on Pagak. We have been defending our positions," Koang said in Juba. "We are not anywhere near Pagak," he added.

The International Organization for Migration (IOM) disclosed that 5,000 people have fled from the area north of Pagak fearing clash between the warring groups and have since been registered in the town before they passed into Ethiopia as refugees.

"There has been an active military engagement over the past week with heavy fighting around Mathiang north of Pagak on July 2," Shearer said last week.

The rebel (SPLA-IO) spokesman Col. William Gatjiath Deng also dismissed fears that the SPLA troops had moved on their stronghold.

"Please denounce the propaganda that merciless forces of Salva Kiir (SPLA) claimed to have approached and surrounded Pagak GHQs, by which forces should they be able to surround Pagak GHQs," he said.

He said that the SPLA-IO forces are now assembled in Thocdeng and are determined to fight with government troops at Wichluakjak area.

South Sudan descended into violence in December 2013 after political dispute between President Kiir and his former deputy Riek Machar led to fighting that pitted mostly Dinka ethnic soldiers loyal to Kiir against Machar's Nuer ethnic group.

The 2015 peace agreement to end the violence was again violated in July 2016 when the rival factions resumed fighting in the capital forcing Machar to flee into exile.

The conflict has killed tens of thousands of people and displaced millions that have sought refuge in neighboring countries.