Heavy fighting erupts in South Sudan near border with Ethiopia


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August 11, 2017 / 7:07 AM
Heavy fighting erupts in South Sudan near border with Ethiopia

South Sudan’s army, or the SPLA, soldiers drive in a truck on the frontline in Panakuach, Unity state April 24, 2012.Goran Tomasevic/File Photo

NAIROBI (Reuters) – Heavy fighting erupted on Friday in the South Sudanese town of Pagak near the border with Ethiopia when rebels launched an offensive against government forces, the rebels said.

Rebel spokesman Lam Paul Gabriel told Reuters that the rebels were seeking to regain Pagak, which was captured by government forces on Aug. 7.

Dickson Gatluak Jock, a spokesman for the forces of South Sudan’s First Vice President Taban Deng Gai, confirmed they were engaged in fighting.

“At 5:00 am, SPLA-IO (Juba faction) forces came under heavy fire in Pagak … Their main aim was to drive out our forces from the strategic town of Pagak,” he told Reuters.

Rebel spokesman Gabriel said: “The government took Pagak from us six days ago. We decided to launch an attack on them because Pagak is our base. They took it from us and we want to take it back.”

“We cannot say right now that we are in full control but we are going towards taking control.”

South Sudan descended into civil war in 2013, only two years after independence, when President Salva Kiir fired his deputy, Riek Machar, unleashing a conflict that has since splintered along multiple ethnic lines.

Machar has been under house arrest in South Africa since December under an attempt by regional leaders to bring about an end to the conflict.

Editing by Richard Balmforth

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