South Sudan dismisses rebel warning of looming advance

Posted: October 30, 2011 by PaanLuel Wël Media Ltd. in Junub Sudan

(AFP)

JUBA, South Sudan — South Sudan on Sunday dismissed a rebel group’s warning it was poised for a fresh assault in oil-rich Unity state and neighbouring Warap, a day after an attack left more than 80 people dead.

The South Sudan Liberation Army late on Saturday gave the UN and aid agencies three days to evacuate Warap state, saying it was about to launch an offensive. It followed a similar warning for Unity state on Friday.

“SSLA forces, under the command of Major General Bepean Machar, are now going towards Warap state to liberate it from corrupt government in Juba,” the group warned in its statement.

“Within few days, the people of Warap will be liberated from abject poverty, corruption and abuse of human rights,” the group said, adding that its fighters were also advancing on the Unity state capital Bentiu.

“The SSLA advises all NGOs and UN personnel to leave Warap state within three days for their own safety. We would also advise the civilians to evacuate all towns and move to villages in order to be safe.”

The government dismissed the rebels’ claim that they had captured the Unity town of Mayom in Saturday’s fighting, giving them a spingboard for the threatened advances on Bentiu to the east and Warap state to the south.

The authorities said that the clashes killed 15 civilians, 60 militiamen and nine members of the security forces.

“The SSLA have been contained and thrown out of Mayom, so there is no way they are advancing towards Warap,” Information Minister Barnaba Marial Benjamin said.

Military spokesman Philip Aguer too insisted that the southern army remained in control of Mayom and surrounding areas.

“I don’t think there is a threat to Warap. The only threat that we know from time to time in Warap is cattle-rustling,” Aguer said.

The southern government said it had deployed extra troops to both Unity and Warap to protect civilians and to guard the border with Sudan, which it accused of training the SSLA.

“They have only been targeting civilians. They have been avoiding army bases in their attacks,” Benjamin said.

“They have been trained by the Sudan government. We know because we have captured some of them and they have admitted it”, Benjamin said.

The minister said that South Sudan intended to appeal to the UN Security Council over its allegations of involvement by Khartoum in violence against civilians.

The SSLA is made up of renegade rebel fighters who refused to accept their commander Peter Gadet’s decision in August to accept a government offer of amnesty.

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