June 16, 2010 (Khartoum) — South Sudan’s army said on Wednesday 10 members of a renegade militia and three soldiers were killed in a gunbattle in the region’s Jonglei oil state.
A 35-strong search team came across George Athor’s rebels on Tuesday, a day after it had flushed him out of a hideout, according to the southern army (SPLA).
Athor launched a rebellion after failing to win Jonglei’s governorship in an April election, accusing the south’s dominant Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) of rigging the vote. Last month Athor said he was coordinating attacks with two other militia leaders in Jonglei and neighbouring Unity state, raising fears for regional stability in the run-up to a potentially explosive secession referendum due in January 2011.
There have been reports of scattered attacks but they have not coalesced into a large uprising.
"The reconnaissance platoon found his new place suddenly and there was an exchange of fire near Dier village in Khorfulus County," SPLA spokesman Kuol Diem Kuol said.
"From the SPLA side, three were killed and eight wounded and from Athor’s side 10 killed."
Athor did not answer calls on Wednesday.
Earlier Kuol said SPLA troops attacked Athor’s forces in the village of Wunlam on Monday night, after they were led to the hideout, also in Khorfulus County, by one of Athor’s men captured in an earlier fight.
"He is running with less than 30 soldiers. They are his close relatives from the village … Our forces are now pursuing him. We expect his capture within days," said Kuol, adding the SPLA captured 13 of Athor’s men and radio equipment on Monday.
Last week the SPLA said it chased militia commander Galwak Gai out of his base in Unity state, which includes oilfields operated by the Greater Nile Petroleum Operating Company (GNPOC), a consortium led by China’s CNPC. French group Total holds a largely unexplored oil concession in Jonglei.
South Sudan, the source of most of Sudan’s oil, secured a referendum on whether to split off as a separate country in a 2005 peace deal that ended more than two decades of civil war with the north.