South Sudan 'Rebels' Take Oil City After Desertions -- Report
February 19, 2014 (JUBA) - A high ranking military official claimed on Wednesday that an internal conspiracy within the ranks of the South Sudan army (SPLA) had helped rebel forces allied to former vice-president Riek Machar enter Malakal, the capital of oil-rich Upper Nile state.
The officer, who spoke on condition of anonymity, alleged that as rebels advanced towards the town, soldiers from the Nuer ethnic group cut off communication with their commanders and left their positions in the eastern and northern perimeters of Malakal.
As a result rebel forces were able to advance on the town from three separate directions with little resistance, he told Sudan Tribune.
“It is either these people did not want to fight or that they wanted to defect. They just allowed them to enter the town and they withdrew from the trenches,” he said.
According to the official, PLA troops had surrounded Malakal prior to the attack and were communicating on rebel activity via code.
Troops in the southern parts of Malakal were under the command of Major General Johnson Uliny, while other parts were divided according to troops’ knowledge of the area.
“Unfortunately our comrades in the east and the north stopped sharing with us any activity of the enemy. They withdrew from their trenches without [our] knowledge,” he said,” the military official told Sudan Tribune.
Army spokesperson Colonel Philip Aguer denied Malakal had been recaptured, although he confirmed fighting was continuing between rebel forces and government troops loyal to president Salva Kiir Mayardit.
“The rebels of Riek Machar have not captured Malakal. It is not under their control, although a few managed to penetrate into the town from the south, north and east. Our forces remain in control of strategic areas in the southern parts of Malakal, and it is just a matter of time before our forces declare complete control of the town”, Aguer told Sudan Tribune on Wednesday.
Please see Sudan Tribune