Pagak/Juba, July 6, 2017 (SSNA) — Heavy fighting between government and rebel forces have resumed in and around Upper Nile’s Guelguk and Mathiang towns, the South Sudan News Agency (SSNA) has learned.
Senior rebel military officers told the SSNA in Pagak that a combination of government, Sudanese rebels, and militias have launched surprise attacks on rebel positions in and around Mathiang and Guelguk, causing civilians to flee their homes.
Rebels said they lured in heavily armed government convoy of specialized military armored trucks into Mathiang and Guelguk thinking that they captured them without a fight.
“We knew they were coming. So, what we did was to leave major areas to fool them into believing that they capture our bases,” SPLA-IO military intelligence officer Khamis Mawwil told the SSNA in Pagak.
“There will be a river of body bags if they think they can take over our areas in Upper Nile,” he warned.
The armed opposition also states that Juba attacked their areas because it doesn’t want any revitalization of the 2015 South Sudan peace deal.
Rebels said they have recaptured both Mathiang and Guelguk Thursday and that they inflicted heavy losses on the government forces, adding, “We captured many of their weapons and military trucks.”
A senior government official who refused to be identified told the SSNA in Juba that the goal of the government is to take full control of Gaatjaak areas and then replace rebel institutions with government ones.
The South Sudan News Agency has learned that after Juba-backed troops captured Mathiang and Guelguk, a unit of government forces was sent to Thoch with instruction to attack the SPLA-IO areas and proceed to Maiwut and Pagak.
However, South Sudanese government forces panicked Thursday evening after SPLA Bilpham General Headquarters in Juba informed them that rebel forces retook Guelguk and Mathiang.
The South Sudan News Agency was told by a senior rebel General that at least five SPLA-IO low-level officers who were caught communicating with government troops were arrested by the SPLA-IO military intelligence unit and taken to unknown location.
The officer refused to identify the identities of the officers alleged to have been secretly collaborating with the government forces.
There was no immediate comment from the SPLA-IO’s Spokesman, Brig. General William Gatjiath Deng.
However, minutes after the South Sudan News Agency published the report, SPLA-IO’s Spokesperson, Brig. Gen. Deng, released an official statement confirming the fighting.
“In the Mangok, Mathiang, Malou and Biot fighting, the gallant SPLA-IO forces of Division Five (5) under the command of Cdr Major General Khor Chuol Giet and Deputy Sector Four (4) Commander Major General Peter Lim Bol resisted and repulsed the Juba regime aggression from the Guelguk direction back to their Malou temporary trenches, where their remnants are now being contained,” Deng said.
Deng added that Juba-backed forces suffered both in material and human losses.
“In this intense fighting, the Juba regime suffered a very debilitating loss both in human and materially. In terms of human, the Juba regime lost some seventy-four (74) soldiers, including eight (8) officers, on spot. This is in addition to those injured and without access to any food or medical attention whatsoever. Materially, the Juba regime abandoned one (1) Worrol mounted with 14 (4) barrels and other four (4) land cruisers mounted with 12.7mm machine guns,” he said.
Brig. General Deng accuses Juba of believing only in action, warning, “the armed opposition will no longer entertain any further provocations and aggressions anywhere in South Sudan.”
Deng further reveals that fighting between the rival forces has also been intensifying in Equatoria region.