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South Sudan’s oil-rich Unity state saw heaving fighting this weekend when clashes between government troops (SPLA) and the armed opposition (SPLA-IO) broke out in Rubkotna county.
The Sudan Tribune confirmed the heavy gunshots and bombardments with a group of civilians who fled the area to the United Nations camp in Bentiu.
One civilian, who identified as Peter, said the fighting occurred in Wichbaar, Tong and Pakuur northwest of Bentiu.
On Monday, Former South Sudan First Vice President Riek Machar, who leads the SPLA-IO, pushed for an armed campaign against the government of President Salva Kiir — a call that could revive the country's civil war.
The opposition faction had predicted imminent attacks from government forces, according to SPLA-IO’s media representative, Weirial Puok Baluang. The group dealt “heavy causalities against the government forces” during the most recent clashes, Puok said.
“Nonetheless, our valiant army SPLA-IO repelled them with vast mortalities inflicted on them as they were dreadfully running back towards Bentiu town.”
Three opposition troops and “dozens” of government soldiers lost their lives during the fighting, according to SLPA-IO military spokesperson Goc Machar, who spoke with Radio Tamazuj.
Puok accused forces affiliated with Kiir of using violent methods, but added that the armed opposition militarily prepared for the assaults.
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“The demise of the August 2015 agreement on the TGoNU [Transitional Government of National Unity] and the subsequent exit of the unsolicited weeds from the SPLM/A-IO have boosted the willpower of our army. Thus, it will allow the rightful owners of the land to claim back their family land in Bentiu anytime from now,” he said.
So far, the South Sudanese army has not addressed reports of the clashes, though Information Minister Lam Tungwar of Northern Liech confirmed the fighting.
According to the Oil & Gas Journal, South Sudan had 3.5 billion barrels of proved oil reserves as of January 1, 2014.
By Zainab Calcuttawala for Oilprice.com
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Zainab Calcuttawala is an American journalist based in Morocco. She completed her undergraduate coursework at the University of Texas at Austin (Hook’em) and reports on…