JUBA, Jan. 13 (Xinhua) -- South Sudan's main rebel group, the Sudan People's Liberation Army-in opposition (SPLA-IO), on Saturday commenced its official release of prisoners of war (PoWs) captured during four years of violence.
The SPLA-IO deputy spokesman Colonel Lam Paul Gabriel said their leader and former First Vice President Riek Machar ordered the release of PoWs being held by the group.
"The chairman and commander in chief of the SPLM/A -IO Riek Machar has officially directed the SPLA-IO forces to release all PoWs and Political detainees as mentioned in the Cessation of Hostilities (CoH) agreement effective on 09/01/2018," Gabriel said in a statement.
He disclosed that the SPLA-IO Sector Seven in Western Bar El Ghazal region through its command structure on Jan. 11 handed over three detainees to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).
This came after the 14-day deadline agreed in the CoH by the warring parties in December 21 last year, in Addis Ababa on the release of PoWs being held on both sides elapsed last week amid intermittent fighting between the groups in violation of the cease-fire.
The agreement also called on the warring parties to surrender children enlisted or recruited in their ranks to the UN children's agency (UNICEF) in the stipulated period.
However, the South Sudan government denies holding any more PoWs and political detainees following the Presidential directive since 2017 that saw some of the political detainees released.
The rebel spokesman also revealed that government troops attacked them on Friday in another round of fresh clashes in Pakuah between Malakal and Tonga with the intention to capture Tonga but the South Sudan army denies attacking the rebel positions.
South Sudan descended into violence in December 2013 after political dispute between President Salva Kiir and his former deputy turned rebel chief Machar led to split within the SPLA, leaving soldiers to fight alongside ethnic lines.
The 2015 peace agreement to end the conflict was weakened after outbreak of renewed fighting in July 2016 caused the SPLA-in opposition rebel leader Machar to flee the capital.