By MABIOR MACH, NATION CORRESPONDENT IN JUBA
At least ten civilians have been killed and several others wounded in a fresh rebel assault in South Sudan’s oil-rich Upper Nile State, the military said Thursday.
Army spokesman Col Philip Aguer said the deceased - four children, four women and two men - met their fate on Wednesday when rebels headed by former Vice President Riek Machar attacked Barliet County, southeast of the state capital Malakal.
“These were families just attacked and robbed. They knew they were attacking civilians and just wanted to robe,” Col Philip Aguer said.
It is the second time in a week the rebels have been accused of violating a cessation-of-hostilities agreement President Salva Kiir signed with rebel chief Dr Machar nearly two weeks ago.
The army said three days ago that rebels had attacked and overran Mathiang, a millitary base in Upper Nile, last week. The rebels denied attacking army positions but claimed they went into the town after the army had withdrawn under mysterious circumstances.
Col Aguer said the fresh attack on Barliet followed heavy shelling on army positions on Tuesday in Nasser County in the same state.
“They used heavy artillery to shell us in Nasser. We regard this as a serious violation of the ceasefire. We are bringing these things to the attention of the mediators to verify,” he said.
However, the rebels have denied any engagement with the army at Barliet and instead accused the army of provoking fighting in Nasser.
“What the military governor told me is that the SPLA shelled us in Nasser,” rebel spokesman Gen Lul Ruach told the Nation.
It was not clear who was in charge of Nasser, a strategic town near to the Ethiopian border.
Sources from Malakal, however, confirmed that there was fighting in Barliet on Wednesday.
Mr Kiir and Machar have been engaged in armed confrontation over the country’s presidency since December 15, when a sporadic gunfire broke out in the capital Juba in a failed coup that Kiir blamed on Mr Machar.
A peace deal the two rivals signed on May 9 in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa has been violated a few times, even as world leaders urge both sides to cease hostilities and allow humanitarian access to about 4 million people at risk of famine.