South Su­dan forces over­take rebel area

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - NEWS -

ZANZIBAR, Tan­za­nia — South Su­dan’s gov­ern­ment forces have over­taken the rebel-held strong­hold and op­po­si­tion head­quar­ters of Pa­gak, along the Ethiopian bor­der, said op­po­si­tion spokesman William Gatjiath Deng.

“They took the main town and our forces are now re­group­ing,” said Deng, reached by phone.

Army spokesman Lul Ruai Koang did not con­firm the re­ports, say­ing that he’s “not aware” of Pa­gak’s takeover.

The rebels burned their mil­i­tary bar­racks be­fore flee­ing to pre­vent gov­ern­ment forces from be­ing able to use the am­mu­ni­tion, ac­cord­ing to res­i­dents.

“While this is a sig­nif­i­cant sym­bolic set­back for the [op­po­si­tion] it re­mains to be seen whether the gov­ern­ment can se­cure the po­si­tion so deep in [op­po­si­tion] ter­ri­tory,” said an aid worker fa­mil­iar with the sit­u­a­tion in Pa­gak, who in­sisted on anonymity for se­cu­rity rea­sons.

Ear­lier this year the gov­ern­ment de­clared a uni­lat­eral cease-fire, how­ever there have been con­tin­ued re­ports of gov­ern­ment-led of­fen­sives into Mai­wut and to­ward Pa­gak, in­clud­ing killings of civil­ians and burn­ings of houses.

In July, the United Na­tions re­ported that 25 aid work­ers were evac­u­ated from Pa­gak due to at­tacks.

Since South Su­dan spi­raled into civil war al­most four years ago, Pa­gak has been the head­quar­ters of the op­po­si­tion rebels, led by former Vice Pres­i­dent Riek Machar, who is in ex­ile in South Africa. The rebels still hold ter­ri­tory in Pany­i­jiar County in Unity state as well ru­ral ar­eas of Jon­glei state and Akobo state, tra­di­tion­ally ar­eas where South Su­dan’s Nuer peo­ple live.

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