South Sudan on Tuesday denied rebels allied to former First Vice President Riek Machar recaptured the strategic Pagak town near the Ethiopian from government troops.

Dickson Gatluak, a spokesman for SPLA-in opposition (SPLA-IO) faction of First Vice President Taban Deng Gai, which formed coalition with President Salva Kiir after the ouster of Machar, told Xinhua their troops were still in control of Pagak following violent clashes on Monday. “This is not true we had been attacked since yesterday (Monday) in northern Pagak at the bridge near the Ethiopian border and we resisted. Our forces are still in control of the town,” he told Xinhua in Juba. This contradicts the account of the deputy rebel spokesman Col. Lam Paul Gabriel who earlier revealed they had since Friday recaptured the rebel headquarters from government troops and were now acting in self defense in case of any attack.

Gatluak disclosed that the rebels who are currently staged in the northern part of Pagak tried to push them off the bridge connecting the northeastern remote town to Ethiopia but they resisted. “The rebels are in the northern part of the town. They (rebels) are not far from the (Pagak) town,” he added. Government troops early last week captured the rebel stronghold after fierce fighting forced thousands of civilians to flee across the Ethiopian border leaving the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) wary of the unfolding humanitarian situation and violations. UNMISS urged for restraint on both warring sides and reminded them of their responsibility towards protecting civilians from conflict. “UNMISS reiterates that peace in South Sudan is only possible through a political rather than a military solution to the ongoing crisis,” UNMISS spokesman Daniel Dickinson told Xinhua. South Sudan descended into violence in December 2013 after political dispute between President Kiir and his former deputy Machar led to fighting that pitied mostly Dinka ethnic soldiers loyal to Kiir against Machar’s Nuer ethnic group. The 2015 peace agreement to end the violence was again violated in July 2016 when the rival factions resumed fighting in the capital forcing Machar to flee into exile.he conflict has killed tens of thousands of people and displaced millions that have sought refuge in neighboring countries.

Source: Xinhua/Newsghana.com.gh