Heavy gunfire erupts in South Sudan

Bruno Cirelli
Agosto 13, 2017

South Sudan said on Friday it has foiled a rebel attack to regain its now captured Pagak stronghold by government troops near the Ethiopian border, a spokesman said on Friday.

"At 5:00 am, SPLA-IO (Juba faction) forces came under heavy fire in Pagak ..."

Rebel spokesman Lam Gabriel told Reuters that the rebels wanted to regain the town of Pagak, which was captured by government forces on August 7.

The South Sudanese vice president used to be a rebel himself, but he was appointed to his current position after he defected to the government in 2016.

Rebel spokesman Gabriel said: "The government took Pagak from us six days ago".

Jock noted that fighting had died down on Saturday, but said the rebels "are not very far from our area".

Pagak is a major town on a road connecting South Sudan to Ethiopia.

The rebels' control of Pagak, located in the Upper Nile region, provides them with an easy route for cross-border movement and smuggling of arms and other supplies from Ethiopia. The government is also eager to control it so that it can block rebel access to resources.

South Sudan descended into civil war in 2013, only two years after independence, when President Salva Kiir fired his deputy, Riek Machar, unleashing a conflict that has since splintered along multiple ethnic lines.

Machar has been under house arrest in South Africa since December as regional leaders try to bring about an end to the conflict.

In what a SSNA reporter calls "surprising move", a rebel military intelligence agent willingly disclosed to the South Sudan News Agency that their intelligence branches and contacts in neighboring countries knew that a military airplane loaded with government troops, weapons, and ammunition was scheduled to arrive in Pagak Thursday evening.

Jock said the military had killed five rebels during Friday's fighting but the insurgents denied the claim.

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